In a month where medicine interviews are taking place for the next cohort of Manchester medical students, we hear from someone at the opposite end of their medicine journey at Manchester. Prakhar Srivastava graduated in July 2019 and has since moved to London to begin life as a junior doctor. Currently undertaking his postgraduate foundation training, Prakhar has kindly taken some time out to discuss the transition from student to doctor…
In many ways, being a first-year junior doctor is not too dissimilar to being a final year medical student. We see patients, perform examinations, take blood samples and all the rest of it. The obvious difference is that now I’m putting my signature everywhere! That real responsibility can be unnerving but thankfully, there is plenty of supervision and guidance available to us.
Another rewarding difference is that my “role” within the medical team is more clearly defined. As a junior doctor, I am expected to perform certain types of tasks and help deliver the plan my senior colleagues envisage. Of course, there are times I am required to make decisions independently, but these are generally at a smaller scale. For me, the day goes by relatively quickly and spending four months within a department instead of four weeks like I was doing in medical school has allowed me to develop more rewarding working relationships with my colleagues on the ward. There is still a significant focus on education too, so I’ve had plenty of opportunities to build on my undergraduate knowledge.
In honesty, working as a junior doctor has been a very manageable transition from life as a final year medical student. I’d credit the educational opportunities afforded to me by the University of Manchester but also myself for making the most of them. Success in this field is largely defined by the pro-activity, enthusiasm, and work-ethic of an individual, and I hope to continue developing those traits as a post-graduate.
And finally, for anyone who has read, “This is going to hurt”, by Adam Kay, life for junior doctors has improved since then! I’m absolutely loving it and no-one can take away the joy I feel when a patient or staff member calls me “Doctor”.
How does it feel to be earning?
When that first paycheque hits your bank account, it is quite the feeling! It is, however, still finite. So long as you don’t expect your lifestyle to transform overnight, even living in London is very manageable on the salary of a foundation doctor. What can be trickier is ensuring you are literate on the concepts of income tax, national insurance and pensions as well as developing your ability to budget, save and invest. It still irks me that at no point in secondary school, University or my working life thus far, has there been any formal guidance on these core subjects and life skills.
For any students reading, I’d highly recommend starting with the MoneySavingExpert website, not just for their deals and bargain options, but for their guides on student loans, budgeting, ISAs, savings accounts and more. Moreover, when you receive your first job offer, I’d recommend trying your best to read and understand the terms of your contract and escalate any questions you have as soon as possible!
What about work-life balance?
Thankfully, I have enjoyed my work duties greatly thus far and apart from feeling lazy on occasion, I tend to look forward to work. However, it is no secret that working a 40+ hours week eats into your life in a way you can’t really imagine until starting a full-time job. However, there are two ways you can approach this. You could reconsider all your recreational activities and prioritise those which are most meaningful to you. Or, you could evaluate your daily habits and find ways to improve your time management, efficiency and focus. A combination of the two approaches is likely to yield success and taking an active approach has helped me keep up my sporting, recreational reading and academic interests.
Moreover, when you realise your free time is limited, you assign much more value to it. I’ve chosen fewer but more meaningful projects and am always trying to ensure I schedule time for seeing close friends and pick up the phone when my parents or sister call, though I’m still not perfect at the latter!
London vs Manchester?
Medicine provides you with the chance to, and sometimes forces you to, relocate at regular intervals. The decision to stick or twist was tricky. Make no mistake, I absolutely loved completing my undergraduate studies in Manchester and it will always be a special city to me. There was certainly the option of staying for my foundation training, but I took the opportunity to head to London and it has been a real treat thus far. It is, of course, more expensive, crowded and stressful than Manchester but there is a wealth of culture to absorb, career opportunities to take and no shortage of other enthusiastic young adults who are starting their working lives.
I’d like to think I have lived and experienced the UK’s two best cities!