Ask the Graduate: Junior Doctor

RO Central Team - Tuesday, January 28, 2020
Posted 1 month ago




Day In The Life: Liam Barrett (Junior Doctor)


I attended the CTC Kingshurst Academy in Birmingham from Year 7 to Year 13. My GCSE results were 10A*'s and 4A's. I then decided to complete the International Baccalaureate (IB) and studied higher level Chemistry, Biology and History, and standard level Russian, English and Maths. I obtained 38 points. This is equivalent to A levels.

Since the age of 16 I had wanted to become a Doctor as it combines my interest in science with helping people.  

I completed medical school at the University of Birmingham. During this time I opted to complete an intercalation in BSc (Hons) Urgent and Emergency Care. An intercalation is an extra year on top of the five years at medical school where you can be released to study another programme. This is a great experience to learn more about a specific field of medicine, get involved in research and develop your skills. Your intercalation can be at the same university you study medicine or external, I chose to do an external intercalation and lived in Manchester for a year. This means you will have two degrees before starting work, medicine and your intercalation. During my intercalation, I realised the power of research and saw the tangible impact on patients, the public and services if you are able to discover a new way to asses, investigate and treat patients. Following this I was keen to continue my research and I secured a place on the doctor’s Academic Foundation Programme (AFP).

Five per cent of junior doctors in the country have academic posts allowing protected time for research, leadership and education interests alongside their work as a doctor.

I aspire to be a clinical academic doctor in emergency medicine where I will work in the emergency department and continue my research interests alongside. I will start specialising in August and have secured a post working in Addenbrooke’s hospital in the East of England and will complete my research at the University of Cambridge.

After finishing medical school, which normally takes 5-6 years, you become a junior doctor on the foundation programme for the first two years. Junior doctors rotate every 4 months to a new speciality. Here I describe a typical day working in the emergency department.


Getting ready for or going to work

Typical shifts in the emergency department can range from 8am to 6pm or 10am to 8pm and nights 8pm to 8am. Your rota is changes week by week and you get to work at different times during the day/night and weekday and weekend.

You take over from your colleagues who will be finishing shift so it is really important to have good time management and make sure you leave enough time to get to work on time. The worse thing is when you have worked all night and the morning team are late.

It can be difficult switching between shifts especially when you finish night shifts and go back to day shifts. The hospital staff consume a lot of coffee!


My morning

My day is spent assessing patients who present to the emergency department. This involves identifying which patients are acutely unwell and require immediate treatment so they have good outcomes. I must also determine the correct management plans for patients, whether this is admission to hospital or discharge back to home, with reassurance and appropriate follow up in the community.


Having lunch

It is often very busy in the emergency department and it can be difficult to have set lunch breaks at a specific time but there is always time for a break and it is really important to make sure that you look after yourself and take breaks. There is always time to go to the toilet and grab something to eat. It is a difficult job and can be emotionally and physically tiring so it is good to have time away from work and patients will thank you later for being refreshed. The workload is also variable but working without breaks will often not be sustainable or good for yourself or patients.

Sharing experiences with colleagues over lunch or coffee is good for morale and you can often learn a lot from your peers. Emergency medicine is the ultimate team speciality and you work together to support each other.


What I find challenging and enjoy

The ever-changing and dynamic environment of the emergency department has always been of interest to me; it is a unique clinical setting which provides exposure to every field of medicine.

I gain a lot of enjoyment from working in a dynamic and fast-paced environment and I find it stimulating to be constantly re-evaluating the current priority and workload.

During your time at work you gain exposure to a variety of minor and major illnesses, as well as trauma. The main challenges are not due to lack of medical knowledge or lack of experience to manage acutely ill patients, but rather environmental factors such as lack of beds, poor clinical flow in the hospital and increased pressures to maintain standards under difficult conditions.

As a doctor I’m striving to provide safe, personal and effective care, but due to increased pressures and circumstances out of control of the medical team it can sometimes be frustrating.


After work

You often spend a lot of your time at work so it is important to wind down and take your own advice. I try and go to the gym twice a week and see friends on the evenings. It is great to be able to share how your day has been and exercising is a great way to destress. I often have evening information sessions or networking events which is also really fun to meet other academic doctors.

Working as a Doctor can be difficult but I really enjoy going to work despite the challenges I face during a day. I always try and keep a smile on my face and when you spend a lot of time at work it is important that you truly are in the right profession. When considering a career in medicine it is really beneficial to gain a realistic idea of what being a doctor is like through gaining work experience.

A career is medicine is very rewarding, challenging and stimulating and all the hard work is definitely worth it.


My other interests

For the last eight years I have been a leader within the international development organisation, Global Brigades, the world’s largest student led global health and sustainable organisation. I influence national and international proceeding as the CEO of the UK entity of the organisation. During this time, I have coordinated, led and driven development work in Honduras, Ghana, Nicaragua, Panama and Greece resulting in being a recipient of a humanitarian award from the House of Commons. Most recently I pioneered a medical programme to provide access to healthcare in the Greek UN refugee camps and worked closely with the international office of migration, ministry of health and world health organisation. Being a Doctor gives you an incredible platform to utilise your skills and experiences to help others.


Please ask me any questions you have!



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