Junior doctor

From ArticleWorld

A junior doctor is a medical doctor that usually has just completed medical school and is undergoing a period of time of supervised practice in order to apply the skills they learned in medical school and to develop specialty training in the specialty of their choice. The similar terms for junior doctor in the U.S. are “intern”, a term which applies to an individual in their first post graduate year, and “resident”, which applies to training beyond the first year. In the U.S., a “fellow” is a doctor who has completed specialty training but is going on to even more training in their sub-specialty.


Junior doctors and their American counterparts usually work under a supervised program. In the middle to late 1900s, these doctors often put in more than 100 hours per week, including shifts as long as 36-48 hours. In both the U.S. and the U.K., there was a great deal of pressure put on these programs by the doctors themselves and the public-at-large to reduce the large number of hours the junior doctor worked. This is because of the perception (and likely reality) that medical mistakes could be made due to the sleep deprivation of the doctor.

The pressure resulted in a mandatory reduction in hours a junior doctor can work in any given week. In the U.K., the British Medical Association agreed to a restriction of 56 hours of work and 72 hours of on-call time per week. This took place in Britain in December 2000 and is scheduled to reduce to 48 hours in 2009. While this represents a drastic improvement over previous schedules, many junior doctors spend their on-call time working during the night to help critically ill patients so that sleep-deprivation is still a probability.


The training of a junior doctor differs from specialty to specialty. Initially, most junior doctors receive a generalist training in all medical specialties, regardless of their intended specialty. After approximately a year, the training shifts to a more specialty-oriented practice that allows the junior doctor the ability to gather specific skills needed in their specialty.

Some doctors undergo about three years post-graduation before becoming specialists in fields such as family medicine and pediatrics. Other specialties, like orthopedic surgery and general surgery, take up to 6-8 years of postgraduate training before they can practice as an independent specialist.