You’ve spent maybe 19 years in education, starting from infant school, through junior and secondary, completed A levels and a 5 year medical degree. It’s been hours and hours of voluntary work experience, years of study, exams and focus. It’s all been hard work, but you’ve done it all and completed an undergraduate medical course; you can now become a junior doctor.
Officially called foundation doctors, you’ll be doing a two year foundation programme. Your first year is known as F1 (foundation year one), with the second year being F2. Your first year will consist of a placement of at least 3 months in a surgical post and at least 3 months in a medical post, providing you with a broad knowledge of different aspects of the job. To pass this year, you must maintain a learning portfolio and complete work based assessments.
The second year, F2, consists of four 3 month placements in different areas. At least one of these will be a placement in a ‘shortage speciality’, giving you the chance to try the more unusual sides of medicine before making a decision about any future speciality training you’d like to pursue. There are work based assessments again, similar to those in F1.
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The curriculum set for foundation doctors has been set out and agreed by the General Medical Council (GMC) which you are required to fully register with before you can start practising. During your F1 you need to hold a provisional registration with a licence to practise, which you can apply for online. For your F2, you must apply for a full registration, but you will be restricted to working in an approved practise setting which has been approved by the GMC until your first revalidation.
To get on to the foundation programme, you need to apply to deaneries. A deanery is responsible for postgraduate medical education, but places are competitive and you’ll need to rank them. Unfortunately many people don’t get their first choice of deanery and have to do their foundation programme somewhere else. The deanery determines where you will be living as well as working, as it may be away from home. Competition is different in each place, for example in London there are more people going for the same placements.
When you first start your foundation programme, you’ll quickly be expected to learn where everything is, procedures, the computer systems and all the administrative work. There will be lots of bleeps and running around, but it’s something that every doctor goes through. There is a level of responsibility, but do always ask your peers and those above you for advice when you need it. You’re now a ‘proper’ doctor, writing prescriptions and looking after patients, so try to enjoy it!
That’s not to say it isn’t hard work. Foundation doctors work a lot of hours; it’s been cut down recently when it made the news that many were working 100 hour weeks, putting patients at risk as the junior doctors were so tired. Junior doctors are supposed to work a maximum of 48 hours a week, averaged over 26 weeks, but this can still mean that they work 13 hour shifts for days in a row. However many on the foundation programmes feel that they can gain more experience and training to prepare them for the future by working longer hours. It’s a busy job, and you’ll quickly learn to force down a sandwich in record time between bleeps that indicate that someone needs you
A junior doctor doing F1 can expect to earn a salary of £22,000 a year, with it increasing to £27,000 for F2. When you have completed your foundation training, you have several choices; train for three more years to become a GP, or train for longer to become a specialist consultant. Do what you love, no matter how long it takes you to get there! Good luck!