Was there ever a golden age for junior doctors?BMJ 2016; 354 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i3662 (Published 06 July 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;354:i3662
- Caroline White, freelance journalist, London, UK
Doctors who trained before 2000 remember being exhausted by working for days with almost no sleep. But they also remember feeling well supported in their “firm”—a team typically comprising a junior house officer, a senior house officer, registrar, and consultant, who always worked together and covered for each other. They describe the rewards of getting to know their patients and the camaraderie of the doctors’ mess. Then the “New Deal,” which was designed to improve working conditions for junior doctors, and the European working time directive, which was introduced to protect all kinds of workers from exploitation and tiredness, heralded a change in working patterns. With the exception of the most recent trainee, all the other doctors we have interviewed, by chance, seem to believe that, however tired they were, it was better to be a trainee doctor in the past than it is now. But many, including the BMA, would be horrified to go back to the exhaustion of the past.
1950s: Harold Ellis, part time teacher of anatomy at King’s College London, former emeritus professor of surgery, University of London
Qualified: 1948, University of Oxford
Trained: Oxford, Sheffield, London plus two years in Royal Army Medical Corps
Caseload: 20-30 patients
Ward rounds: Daily
Hours: No set hours. We didn’t count the hours
On call: One day a week and one weekend in two or three
Time off: When it was quiet. Some Sundays
Leave: Two weeks
Perks: Free accommodation, all meals, laundry, doctors’ mess
We all knew one another and what each was capable of. The firm was like a …
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