Feature Voxpop

Junior doctor—should the term be abandoned?

BMJ 2017; 359 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j4928 (Published 25 October 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;359:j4928
  1. Abi Rimmer
  1. BMJ Careers

After England’s chief medical officer called for use of the job title to be ended,1Abi Rimmer asked trainees attending the BMJ Careers Fair in London on Friday 20 October for their views

Laura Jones, clinical teaching fellow and senior house officer (SHO) in care of the elderly, South Tyneside Hospital

“I think the term is misunderstood, because whether you’re two months or six years out of medical school your title is ‘junior doctor.’ That can be very misleading not only to the general public but also to hospital staff. I don’t tend to use the term to introduce myself because when I have done in the past patients have asked, ‘So you haven’t finished your training and you’re not a doctor yet?’ When I was in foundation training I would say I was an F1 [year 1 foundation trainee] or an F2, and now I use the term SHO because I find that in general people have a slightly better understanding of what that is. If you say junior doctor people worry about the level of experience you have.”

Owen Seddon, trainee in microbiology and infectious diseases, Cardiff

“I think the controversy over the term junior doctor is a bit artificial, and I slightly resent it when people start objecting to the term . . . If you attempt to rebrand it then you’re just going to have another term that is going to have other connotations, and the public still won’t necessarily understand it any better. I don’t find it objectionable. I don’t mind being a junior doctor—I’ve got one year to go until I become a consultant and I don’t find it an offensive term.”

Stacey Killick, year 5 specialty trainee in paediatrics, North Wales

“My view of a junior doctor is that it covers anything from the first year of foundation training to the final year of training, below consultancy training. I think it is an acceptable term. I have certainly never met anyone who has taken offence to it, and it doesn’t worry me being called it as I get more senior.”

Emily Inglis, year 1 core trainee in psychiatry, Cornwall

“To me the term feels too uncomfortably unqualified. I think in America they use ‘resident doctor’ and ‘intern doctor’—or we could use just ‘doctor.’ Why does it have to have anything else attached? I don’t think ‘junior doctor’ explains that an ST7 [year 7 specialty trainee] is not as junior as an F1 at the very beginning of their training, so I certainly don’t think it’s as descriptive as it should be. It implies immaturity, and as soon as I say I’m a junior doctor a lot of patients assume I’m a medical student, which can be frustrating. I understand there does need to be a distinction between us and the consultants, but I think there could be a better word to describe us.”

John Carroll, year 2 foundation trainee, Hastings

“The term is very vague. It covers anyone who is qualified up to consultancy level. It’s not hugely helpful in terms of letting patients know that you’re different from a medical student. But I don’t think it is used that much by junior doctors anyway: they often introduce themselves according to their defined title. For example, if a registrar is talking to a patient they will introduce themselves as such. On the other hand, a positive of the term is that it’s a very quick way of letting someone know you are one of the staff and you’re a doctor.”

Ghali Salahia, first year radiology registrar, Cardiff

“The term can sometimes be misleading, especially for senior trainees—for example, ST6 and above—but I don’t feel offended if I am called a junior doctor. I don’t think patients really understand what ‘junior doctor’ means. They may even confuse them with medical students. Maybe if they changed the term ‘junior doctor’ to ‘registrar’ that would be a little bit clearer.”

Rachel Hubbard, year 2 specialty trainee in radiology, London

“It’s a broad term that not many people understand. I don’t think it represents the breadth of experience you have as a medical trainee. It puts an F1 in the same grade as an ST7, and an ST7 has a lot more clinical experience and a lot more life experience than an F1. It is poorly understood by the general public.”

Siobhan Clarke, year 1 core trainee, Southend

“It’s vague and unhelpful. It makes it hard for patients to understand what our actual role is. It creates the assumption that you are young and inexperienced, and it means that patients are waiting for a senior doctor. I would slightly prefer the term trainee. I think sometimes our trainee status matters more to us than to the patient. I don’t think a patient has ever said, ‘Oh, you’re an F2, that’s good to hear.’ They don’t really care—they just want to know whether you are making the decisions or whether you are consulting someone else who is going to come. You can make that clear without being called anything. It’s more important for us to make it clear what we are doing for the patients at that point in time.”

Thomas Sammut, post-F2 studying for a masters degree in London

“The term is appropriate because of the position we are in in our training. However, it’s important to clarify it doesn’t mean ‘student doctor,’ which I think there may be some confusion with. We haven’t been in the job for that long, so I think ‘junior doctor’ is appropriate. However, the span over which someone is called a junior doctor may be a bit too long, and it would be helpful to differentiate between an early years junior doctor and a registrar, for example.”

Ruchir Vasaiwalla, year 2 foundation trainee, Hastings

“The term junior doctor needs to remain, because I think it is generic and it tells people who we are in the hospital. Having used the term F1 or F2 in the past, I have found that it can confuse the patient. I think to make it simple for the public—because we are dealing with them every single day—the term junior doctor has to remain the same.”


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