BBC Junior Doctors medic Joanna Rooney on transitioning to clinical practice

BBC Junior Doctors medic Joanna Rooney on transitioning to clinical practice

Joanna Rooney featured on BBC TV show Junior Doctors. (Image: BBC)

For as long as Joanna Rooney can remember, she’s always wanted to be a doctor. The ability to work with people and help them interests her, and she enjoys making relationships with her patients.

Rooney, 28, was one of the medics who took part in the fourth series of the BBC television show Junior Doctors: Blood, Sweat and Tears.

The TV series, which was filmed for almost four months at Wolverhampton’s New Cross Hospital, followed both the professional and personal lives of seven junior doctors, including Rooney.

Rooney said the BBC approached a few hospitals and junior doctors who were interested in being featured were asked to put their hand up. 

“My friends encouraged me to get involved. The BBC gave me a call, we had a chat and they did a screen test where they asked questions on camera. Then they asked if I’d like to be involved. It all happened very quickly,” she said.

During her time on the Junior Doctors programme, Rooney worked in the trauma and orthopaedics department, treating injuries that affect the musculoskeletal system, and was completing her two-year work based training, known as a foundation programme, as a FY2 (foundation year two) doctor.

Rooney plans to specialise in trauma and orthopaedic surgery.

Getting international medical experience

Rooney is currently based at a hospital in rural Queensland, Australia in a SHO (Senior House Officer) role and completing three-month rotations.

“I’m on a rural placement which is completely different to what I’ve done. There are four junior doctors in the whole hospital. It’s very hands on, and we’re dealing with everyone from babies through to the elderly,” she said.

Working abroad was always something that Rooney wanted to do, so she could gain a broader experience and learn from different hospital systems.

“The rural placement really appealed to me. In the UK many people head down a very specialised path but with a rural hospital you’ve got limited resources so you’re more limited in what you’ve got available to you. I have to rely on my clinical judgement and experience quite a lot, and I need the confidence to make an assessment on a patient,” she said.

“Even though I’ve done two years of medical training, I feel like I’m getting completely new medical experience again.”

Another appeal of working abroad and, in particular, at a rural hospital is having access to senior doctors and specialists with diverse backgrounds, Rooney said.

“A lot of the doctors I work with are from varied backgrounds and have lots of international experience, so I have learned a lot from those that I work with. You can give them any scenario and they can always deal with it and come up with a solution. This has been a great opportunity for me to learn from them,” she said.

Joanna Rooney (pictured, second from right) appeared on BBC show Junior Doctors. (Image: BBC)

Joanna Rooney (pictured, second from right) appeared on BBC show Junior Doctors. (Image: BBC)

Transitioning from medical school to clinical practice

While Rooney has a solid few years of experience as a medic, the biggest challenge she has faced in transitioning to clinical practice is having confidence in her decision making.

“One of the things I find I’m most aware of is that I feel I don’t always have the confidence in what I think is correct. I’ll see a patient, make an assessment, and having the confidence in yourself is to make a plan and stick to it but also ask for help when you think you need it. But it is also about not being too over cautious and questioning every little thing, so it’s a fine balance,” she said.

Rooney said she often debriefs with senior doctors to confirm whether she made a good judgement for a patient, and to get feedback from those more experienced than her.

“I realise that a lot of that confidence will come with time and experience,” she said.

Rooney said reflective practice, where doctors record the things they’ve done, was common in the UK hospital systems and it is something that she has taken with her throughout her career.

She often takes notes on complex cases and operations, and records key points from presentations and teaching sessions to consolidate her practice.

Rooney has found documenting procedures akin to creating a personal reference file, and said it has been especially useful to refer back to for patient cases that were unique or uncommon.  

“It’s quite a valuable part of doing the job,” she said.

As a junior doctor, Rooney has learned the importance of putting herself out there and seeking opportunities to learn new skills.

“Especially when it comes to developing surgical and practical experience, you’ve got to ask or let people know that you’re keen to practice,” she said.

Being deliberate and insistent, while remaining polite and professional, about seeking new opportunities in clinical practice has been a tactic that has allowed Rooney to progress in her roles, especially as she transitioned from medical student to junior doctor.

“You’ve got to seek things out – they won’t just fall into your lap,” she said.

“For instance, I often used to stay late after my shifts ended to go into theatre (orthopaedics) so I could observe surgery and ask the surgeons questions. Sometimes, they would ask if I could scrub in, and when appropriate would ask if I’d like to have a go. But sometimes you need to step up and ask for the opportunity because the surgeons forget that you want and need the experience.”

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