Why junior doctors need a rebrand
Yesterday marked the start of a campaign by the Royal Society of Medicine to abolish the terms “junior doctor” and “trainee doctor”. It is hoped that acknowledging doctors’ experience within their job title will be a cost-neutral way of boosting morale and giving them “the respect they deserve”. It would also help to ease public confusion around the terms, with many
unaware that junior doctors are not students but fully qualified doctors undertaking training in their speciality of choice. They may have been working for 10 years, but remain “juniors” until they attain the rank of consultant.
One might wonder what all the fuss is about – after all, juniors exist in other professions, apparently without problem. But in a hospital, no other roles use the term. There are no junior radiographers, nurses or pharmacists. Abolishing the term for doctors would bring us in line with our colleagues. As one of the eponymous juniors who would be affected by this change, I welcome it. While the term is a convenient, familiar and widely understood catch-all for the
bewildering assortment of training grades that replaced the old system of house officers and registrars (which I believe worked well), it can also be too vague.
The public often view junior doctors as baby-faced, inexperienced and panic-stricken. Patients may feel unduly nervous to know that procedures will be performed by a junior doctor – but this is the reality of the NHS. Hard-working, highly skilled and experienced juniors are the backbone of medical systems around the world – and they will continue
to be, regardless of the title they are given.
Some have questioned the timing of this announcement and its shortsightedness, given the serious pressures the NHS is under. A change of name for junior doctors is more than just semantics – it’s about accuracy. But if the government believes that this minor rebranding will do anything for morale while rotas remain unfilled, beds rarer than hens’ teeth and doctors more stressed than ever, then they are woefully naive.