Stephanie Rimmer: Foundation training fears

Having recently graduated from medical school, in a few days’ time I will start my first ever job as a doctor. That title alone, which I worked so hard for, now completely terrifies me and feels totally unjustified. How can I have spent the last five years studying, to lead me up to this point, and yet feel so unprepared?

I can be happily enjoying my last few days of student bliss when all of a sudden I have that sudden sinking feeling, as I imagine a nurse turning to me and with a worried look saying “Doctor, Mr so-and-so isn’t looking well, would you come and assess him?”

My immediate thought would be, “Who, me? Surely you don’t mean me? Isn’t there someone else who actually knows how to do that sort of thing?” I even have this fear when it comes to simple tasks, like putting cannulas in, prescribing fluids and medications, and assessing patients. Every doctor you talk to and seek advice from has at least one right-of-passage story, along the lines of, “that time they nearly did such and such and had to be rescued by the reg” or “the first time they had to start CPR alone.”

The list is endless. Part of me almost hopes that I have one of those moments early on, so that I can learn how to deal with it. Another part of me wants to just hide in the cupboard and hope no one notices that I’m not on the ward.

The good news is that I am not alone. Most of my friends say exactly the same thing and I really think that those who deny it are just as terrified underneath it all. I hope that fear will initially bond us together as juniors, as we help one another blunder  through.

The other good news is that everyone keeps reassuring me that it will all “come back to me” when I need it. I currently can’t even really think what ‘it’ is, but I am hoping five years of study will have left some sort of imprint on my brain. I have started my general preparation, this includes constantly carrying around my Oxford Handbook of Foundation Medicine. I haven’t actually brought myself to opening it or even get it out of my bag yet, for fear of it all looking alien.

Others preparations include reading up on life support and completing the oh so exciting online training modules, while most importantly deciding on what I will wear on my first day.

However, underneath all the fear and anxiety I do feel a general sense of excitement.

This is my moment to sink or swim. To work out if I really have what it takes to be a  doctor and just get on with it. I get to become a real adult, with a real job, just like most of my friends did three years ago. I can stop explaining why I don’t have any money.

On the flip side, I feel like I’ve lost my autonomy. With just days to go before induction starts I haven’t had even a sniff of my rota. But I’ve already been told that I need to request any holiday that I want to take in my first four months within my first two weeks. There is no room for spontaneity or flexibility and for all I know my first week of shifts could be nights. This worries me for the long term. You hear about 14 day long shifts and last minute rota chages, which have left people missing a sibling’s or best friend’s wedding or in one case even their own.

Am I ready to hand over control of my free time and social life to the whims of the ever-changing NHS rota? So many have done it before me and survived but from the platform of post-elective bliss on which I stand it seems like a big ask. I can only hope that I enjoy the next couple of years as much as I expect too and I don’t suffer too many major mishaps. I hope that I manage to make a few friends and have a laugh along the way. Most of all I just really hope that I will be that person, about which patients and colleagues will say “she’s a good doctor.”

I have read and understood BMJ policy on declaration of interests and declare the following interests: None

Stephanie Rimmer is a foundation year one doctor at Charing Cross Hospital, London