Case study

Academic Foundation Year One doctor — Dr Liam Barrett

Liam enjoys the unpredictable nature of the emergency hospital department, which can be both exciting and challenging. Find out how his training is progressing and where he hopes to be in five years

How did you get your job?

Following completion of the MBChB Medicine at the University of Birmingham, as well as a BSc (Hons) Intercalated Urgent and Emergency Care from Plymouth University, I secured a place on the Doctors' Academic Foundation Programme (AFP). To get onto the AFP I completed an application form, which included a section on academic achievements, and then I was interviewed.

Five percent of junior doctors in the country have academic posts allowing protected time for research, leadership and education interests. I'm on the leadership track, but have overlapping interests in research and education.

What does the programme involve?

I've recently finished my first four-month rotation in the emergency department at the Royal Blackburn Hospital, where I typically work a ten-hour shift. I am part of a huge team of staff including doctors, nurses, healthcare assistants, porters and cleaners, who work hard to maintain patient safety.

My day is spent assessing patients who present to the emergency department. This involves identifying which patients are acutely unwell and require immediate treatment, to give them the best possible chance of good outcomes.

I must also determine the correct management plans for patients, whether this involves admission to hospital or discharge back home - all with reassurance and the appropriate follow-up measures in the community.

How relevant is your degree?

My degree in medicine is essential as it's a prerequisite for undertaking the medical training required to become a doctor.

What other experience do you have?

I've received a humanitarian award from the House of Commons for my international work with Global Brigades, the largest student-led global health and sustainable development organisation. During my six-year involvement, I've coordinated, led and driven projects in Ghana, Honduras and Nicaragua. I now influence national and international proceedings as a trustee and president of the UK board.

What do you enjoy most about your training?

The ever-changing and dynamic environment of the emergency department has always been of interest to me. It's a unique clinical setting which provides exposure to every field of medicine.

I enjoy working in a dynamic and fast-paced environment, and I find it stimulating to be constantly re-evaluating the current priority and my workload.

What are the challenges?

During your time at work you gain exposure to a variety of minor and major illnesses, as well as trauma. The main challenges are not due to lack of medical knowledge or lack of experience to manage acutely ill patients, but rather environmental factors such as lack of beds, poor clinical flow in the hospital and increased pressures to maintain standards under difficult conditions.

As a doctor I'm always striving to provide safe, personal and effective care, but due to increased pressures and circumstances out of control of the medical team this can sometimes be frustrating.

Where do you hope to be in five years?

The next step for me on the AFP is an Academic Clinical Fellowship (ACF). I intend to pursue an integrated clinical academic pathway in emergency medicine. This will prepare me to become a consultant in emergency medicine and work towards a PhD for my research interests.

Any advice to other aspiring doctors?

  • There are 86,400 seconds in a day. Start a new challenge each day to maintain a fresh outlook.
  • Medical school is a platform from which you can define your own path. The outcome of being a doctor for many is already set out. What makes you different?
  • Maintain your core values, compassion, dignity and a sense of humour in any new project.

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