Diary of an FY1 – Anju Phoolchund

Having done a very limited survey of what medical students would like to know about life as an FY1, I found one particular answer quite interesting: the work life balance. What else does an FY1 do outside of being the ward runner?

The transition from medical student to FY1 is scary for many reasons, and not least is the unknown of starting a new job, meeting new people, and for many people, moving to a different hospital or indeed a different part of the country. I found after six years of seeing the same 300+ people every day in familiar environments, the concept of changing deaneries altogether was quite daunting. It felt very much like the first day at primary school again! Reassuringly, once that initial “meet new people” period is over, you naturally fall into sync with those with similar interests, and FY1 nights out are always very well attended and quite raucous. Most firms will try their best to go to the local pub on a Friday night for some drinks, and it’s definitely healthy for team relationships to do some socialising off the war.

Outside of the walls of the hospital and its own social circle, how much of a life can you maintain? The short answer is as much or as little as you want to. The rate limiting factor is your energy levels and how much sleep you might need on a daily basis. Working is a lot more tiring than being a medical student, mostly because you are actually constantly doing a procedure or examining a patient or trying to discuss a referral with a radiologist or a different team. In many cases you will not actually get to leave exactly on time at the end of the shift, and the rota means that you will work different times from one week to the next. This makes it quite difficult to do regular things like weekday evening classes. Also you need to get up early the next morning, and being late because of oversleeping/hungover is poorly perceived (although not unheard of)!

The flip side of busy rotas is annual leave and zero days. The more on calls you do, the more random days off you seem to get. Now to work out what to do with allocated free time…. The recommended option is of course to go on holiday, now that there is some disposable income. Sleeping is another much loved use of random zero days! Most importantly of all, it’s worth the effort to stay in touch with friends from medical school. These are the people alongside whom you grow into fully fledged doctors, often since that first evening of Freshers’ Fortnight, and they are the best people to complain to about a busy day or a difficult job over a pint (fortunately no longer of snakebite…)

What about the extracurricular activities from university days? For most people, leaving medical school means leaving the formal set-ups of weekly music/ dance/drama rehearsals or sports practice. Not having a rehearsal on a Tuesday after six years of orchestra was a bit of a shock at first… Even if with a job in the same local teaching hospital, few people continue to be a regular fixture in university clubs & societies due to difficulties with time commitment. Some find a more “grown up” version such as the London Doctors Orchestra & Choir, some will come back to medical school for specific dates such as varsity or 24 Hour Light Opera. There’s no reason why you can’t start something entirely new of course, and lots of hospitals have their own staff choirs or football teams.

It’s worth bearing in mind that my personal experience is one in a busy teaching hospital with on-call commitments, and other hospitals often have much more relaxed rotas and workloads. Those of you who know me also know that I tend to get very deeply involved in whatever I do, hence often staying late (and not getting paid for it) because I felt strongly about the smooth running of the ward. Not always the healthiest attitude in the long run, and not one I recommend. As the junior member of the team, you will always find that there is more work to be done no matter what time of the day or night it is. The trick is being able to handover appropriately, and go home at a reasonable time, as long as your patients are safe.

Wherever you get allocated via the lottery of FPAS, getting the work/life balance right is an important thing about FY1 year, as it can often set the tone for the rest of your medical career. So work hard when at work, but don’t let it affect your personal lives, and have fun with the first year of having (hopefully) some disposable

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