Novice Guide

Published: 13/08/2019

Help and support

Help, guidance and support

Starting a career in anaesthesia can sometimes be a stressful, unsettling experience – this is quite normal. Some novices, particularly those who’ve come from busy jobs with an element of autonomy and independent practice, find being supernumerary and directly supervised at all times, difficult to adjust to. There is also a lot of paperwork and assessments to complete, particularly in the first 6 months, which can seem overwhelming. It is really important to complete these as you go along, not at the last minute.

Doing your first on call, being left alone with an anaesthetized patient, or managing a list solo are other hurdles new starters in anaesthesia frequently find stressful. It is important to realise that you are not alone. There will always be someone that you can ask for help, advice or support. This may be a more senior trainee or the consultant on call. You must never feel pressurized to manage a case if you don’t feel comfortable doing so. Surgeons, and occasionally other anaesthetists, may ask you to do something that you feel is beyond you. It may be that they don’t realise how junior and inexperienced you still are. It is very important to ask for help if you feel you need it – it is not a sign of weakness.

If you do feel that you have been harassed, undermined or pressurized, you should talk to someone about it, as it is not acceptable. In an on-call environment, the on-call consultant should be informed. Other colleagues to speak to include your Educational Supervisor or College Tutor, or indeed any consultant that you feel you can trust.

If you feel that you are not coping at work, whatever the reason, it is very important to let someone know, as there are support mechanisms in place in all Trusts and 'Deaneries'. Your Educational Supervisor or College Tutor are usually the first port of call. Sometimes you may prefer to talk to someone outside of the department, in which case, your GP or Occupational Health may be helpful. In addition, all 'Deaneries' have a trainee support unit to help trainees who need assistance with a wide variety of difficulties.

Other avenues for help include the British Medical Association (BMA), the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain & Ireland (AAGBI) and the Royal Medical Benevolent Fund, which all provide support services for doctors.

  • The BMA's Wellbeing Support Services offer counselling and peer support, 24hrs, 7 days a week on 0330 123 1245.
  • The AAGBI runs a Support and Wellbeing Committee. They provide information, advice and support on the professional, personal and family aspects of anaesthetists’ lives. The Committee can be contacted on 020 7631 1650 or emailed at: wellbeing@aagbi.org. Their website also highlights additional support and wellbeing schemes for doctors.
  • The Royal Medical Benevolent Fund is the leading UK charity for doctors, medical students and their families. They provide financial support, money advice and information when it is most needed due to age, ill health, disability and bereavement. Please see their website for more details: http://www.rmbf.org/.

Please remember, that whatever the problem, it is far better to seek help and advice, than to bottle things up and struggle on.