Medical students who graduated early to help meet the challenge of the first wave of COVID-19 gained experience that left them better prepared for their careers as doctors. 

Researchers from Newcastle, Exeter and Plymouth Universities have published research into their experiences, and the impact on their work and wellbeing. 

They found that FiY1 roles provided more authentic experience of medical practice than student placements, easing new doctors’ progression through what researchers called the ‘transitional state’ at the start of their medical careers. 

As FiY1 doctor roles were formal and paid, unlike placements, graduates had greater esteem, and their expectations of the role, and those of their workplace colleagues, were higher.  

Overall, despite some challenges, researchers found that FiY1 roles were a valuable experience for most graduates, providing an ‘apprenticeship’ in the responsibility of being a doctor, but with fewer of the demands. 

Researchers used questionnaires, journal entries and interviews to understand participants’ experiences. Their findings included: 

  • FiY1 roles were attractive – they were perceived as benefiting students’ learning, and many had an altruistic desire to contribute to the NHS in a time of need.
  • Work was variable – FiY1s worked across a range of clinical environments, although most were deployed in medical wards. The majority worked with COVID-19 patients.
  • The experience made graduates better prepared – those who worked in FiY1 roles felt more prepared for starting their F1 roles.
  • There was limited impact on wellbeing – while exposure to acutely ill and dying patients was associated with stress and burnout, there was no difference in wellbeing between those did FiY1 roles and those who did not.

Professor Colin Melville, the GMC’s Medical Director and Director of Education and Standards, said: 

“The creation of FiY1 roles was an innovative response to an unprecedented situation. The challenge of starting work in those circumstances was huge, and so we are grateful to all those graduates who were able to fill these posts and to be part of the NHS response to the pandemic. 

“Now we need to consider how to harness the positive features of these interim roles to benefit future medical graduates. This report will help us do that, and it will inform the conversations we have as we continue to shape medical education and training.”

Researchers found that graduates’ negative experiences were often with other team members, in part because FiY1 roles were new and a change to established team structures. But their experiences with patients were typically positive and rewarding, often because they had more time to spend with them. 

The report authors identified features that make a ‘good interim role’. These included that they should be paid, have clear application and appointment processes, have clear duties and responsibilities, avoid antisocial hours, and provide space for both informal and formal support.

Follow Us