Being a junior doctor is draining for many reasons. You work long hours and are often on-call, there are many things medical schools don’t always prepare you for and you are under lots of pressure, everyday. I’m not a junior doctor, although it may sound like I think I am, but I have read books and watched documentaries that have shown me the harsh reality of life after medical school, and that although it’s not all doom and gloom, a medical career doesn’t get off to the easiest of starts!
Last summer, I read ‘This is Going to Hurt’ by Adam Kay, a hilarious book with a serious message behind it. It’s a read I’d recommend to anyone, but especially to someone considering medicine. Adam used to be a doctor and the book is full of his experiences, including those as a junior doctor, and he doesn’t sugar-coat a thing! I found the book incredibly helpful, choosing medicine is a big decision and you need to be fully aware of what you’re letting yourself in for, otherwise you could end up making a big mistake!
I’ve also watched the documentary ‘Junior Doctors: On the Front Line’ and I’m currently reading ‘Trust me, I’m a (junior) doctor’ by Max Pemberton, which isn’t too dissimilar from ‘This is Going to Hurt’ but it’s solely focused on his experience in his foundation years as a doctor, rather than his later experiences. Gaining an insight into the work of junior doctors isn’t only beneficial, but it makes you appreciate the medical profession and it breaks down false images created by hospital dramas, that being a doctor is a glamorous, heroic career.
I’ve taken it upon myself to do some further digging into this hot topic, as I remember the junior doctor strikes, but I was a bit younger at the time so never really did too much reading into it. First of all, the term ‘junior doctor’ is often associated with students who’ve graduated from medical school and are in their foundation training years. This is not true! You are a junior doctor when in speciality training too, however the pay increases. In 2016, changes were to be made to the junior doctor contract. The pay was to increase by 13.5%, but what constituted of ‘unsociable hours’ was going to change, for example, daytime hours on a Saturday were to be paid at a normal rate, rather than an increased one. This was very controversial and people felt it was done to make it cheaper to have doctors working on weekends, as it was said that patients admitted at the weekend are more likely to die and so the government wanted to improve patient care by having more doctors working. This was challenged by junior doctors and it was felt that the reduction in pay was clearly for financial gain.
In 2019, negotiations ended and some key changes were made: an increase in pay for weekends and nights, guaranteed lift in pay of 2% each year for the next 4 years, limits on the number of long shifts taken and much more. It’s definitely an improvement, this deal brings a £90million investment into junior doctors for the next 4 years. I do think this deal is a step in the right direction, treating NHS staff fairly is very important, not only because doctors provide an important service to us all, but because we need to encourage young people to study medicine and become our doctors of the future.