Tips for New DoctorsAhmed Rashid - 9 Aug, 2018
It’s a rite of passage in medicine to be absolutely terrified on your first day as a doctor. I distinctly remember how my hands were shaking when I signed a prescription for the first time, and the great care I took when making my first entries into clinical notes. As the learning curve is so steep, it can be easy to forget just how challenging those first days and weeks actually were.
When I was a medical student, the advice I got about my first day came mostly from conversations in the doctors’ mess, hearing about the mistakes, experiences, and regrets of junior doctors. I lapped up their pearls of wisdom, hoping desperately that I would survive the escapades that they had somehow managed to navigate. But the era of doctors’ messes seems to have passed, and many newer hospitals don’t even have such spaces.
So where do new entrants to the medical profession seek this informal advice nowadays? Social media, of course! For the millennial generation, the smartphone is all you need for everything, and career advice is no different.
Hashtags (a word or phrase starting with the ‘#’ symbol and continuing without spaces) are an important part of many social media platforms, and allow users to search for information and to follow or contribute to discussions on particular topics. Many hashtags that link together conversations between doctors have emerged, fostering a sense of community. One such hashtag is #TipsForNewDocs, which was devised to provide advice to newly qualified doctors who are preparing to embark on their first clinical roles.
In a recent study published in Medical Education, our team analysed all tweets posted using #TipsForNewDocs over a 48 hour period in early August 2016. We found that despite their brief and often comical nature, these tweets provided meaningful advice, on topics as diverse as how to refer to specialists, how to behave towards non-medical colleagues, how to look after yourself, and how to recognise sick patients. There was also a clear pattern of socialisation, with lots of tweets giving advice on how to fit in to the medical profession, including for example, advising on subjects that it’s OK to laugh at (almost everything!).
One of the most striking findings for me, though, was the diversity of backgrounds of those tweeting on this topic. Unsurprisingly, many junior doctors, GPs, and hospital consultants were posting. But advice also came from nurses, pharmacists, allied health professionals, paramedics, and other professional groups. Most promisingly, there were also a large number of tweets from patients and members of the public.
As well as new foundation doctors on wards, there are also a whole load of new GP registrars and newly qualified GPs starting work at this time of year too. So if you have any advice for them, tweet using #TipsForNewGPs to let them know all those things you wish you’d known when you were starting out in the formidable world of general practice.