Why ju­nior doc­tors need a re­brand

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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.

Ta­mal Ray

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