Junior doctors' competence and skills not yet complete


For immediate release: Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Medical graduates preparing to start their working life as foundation year doctors should understand their own limitations and work within their competence level, says UK-wide medical defence organisation MDDUS.

The first Wednesday in August traditionally sees thousands of medical graduates starting their first hospital jobs and a majority of junior doctors changing clinical posts.

Research suggests death rates amongst patients admitted on this day increase by as much as six per cent and there have been repeated calls to address the problem.

MDDUS Head of Professional Services Dr Jim Rodger believes that, while starting life as a junior doctor is one of the biggest challenges they will face, new graduates can make the change smoothly by working within their competence and seeking support from senior colleagues.

“It is a difficult transition from medical student to junior doctor. Those graduates starting their working life this week should be aware that their competence and skills may not be complete. They should understand their own limitations and seek help and advice from senior staff.

“By asking questions, they can reduce the risk of stress and ensure patient safety is not compromised.

“Medical graduates should be perfectly well aware of the clinical aspects of the job. It is how they fit in to the team and the technicalities of working on wards which is new to them.”

One measure introduced to provide support for doctors as they adapt to their new role is a paid four-day shadowing period. This compulsory scheme will help the trainee settle into their role but the learning really begins for them once they take up their post.

“Shadowing will undoubtedly help junior doctors make the step up from student to doctor and they will benefit from experiencing the clinical environment they will be working in,” adds Dr Rodger.

“However, nothing can fully prepare a graduate for that first day in the job. It is a steep learning curve and the nature of medicine means that it is inevitable doctors have to learn on the job.”

A recent report from the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and NHS Employers looked at ways of minimising the problems that arise during changeover periods.

The study highlights the importance of support from senior colleagues, stating: “The consultant, as the clinical leader of the team, needs to be actively involved in welcoming, inducting and supporting their new trainees in the critical period when they are acclimatising to their new job role and environment.”

“Supervising doctors should support juniors wherever possible and not just during their shadowing period,” says Dr Rodger. “Graduates need assistance as they adjust to their new environment. Senior colleagues can help them become familiar with hospital systems and protocols as well as offering support and guidance as juniors develop their skills and training.

“With the right support, newly qualified doctors can have the confidence to perform their roles so that patient safety is not compromised.”


For further information contact Richard Hendry on 0845 270 2034 or 07976 272266, or email rihendry@mddus.com.

Note to editors

MDDUS (The Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland) is a medical and dental defence organisation providing access to professional indemnity and expert medico- and dento-legal advice for doctors, dentists and other healthcare professionals throughout the UK. For further information on MDDUS go to www.mddus.com.

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