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How to become a Hospital Doctor

hospital doctor careers

What does a Hospital Doctor do?

Hospital doctors diagnose and treat illness, disease and infection in patients admitted into hospital or treated in outpatient clinics. They examine patients and carry out necessary treatment. Patients may be referred by a GP or other doctor, or admitted to hospital as an emergency.

Hospital doctors work within one of 50 specialist fields in hospital medicine. These can be grouped into four main areas, which are:

  • Medicine: this is the treatment of general medical conditions and emergencies. Specialisms include paediatrics, cardiology, dermatology, geriatrics, neurology and tropical medicine.
  • Surgery: surgeons are responsible for patients before, during and after operations. Some doctors are general surgeons, others specialise in areas like neurosurgery, orthopaedic surgery or plastic surgery.
  • Pathology: pathologists investigate the cause and effect of disease. They lead a team of scientists and technicians. Specialists in this field include histopathologists (diagnosing disease from changes in tissue structure), chemical pathologists (detecting biochemical changes related to medical conditions), molecular geneticists (identifying abnormalities in DNA and chromosomes) and medical microbiologists (identifying micro-organisms causing disease).
  • Psychiatry: psychiatrists work with patients with mental illness or disability, prescribing drugs and managing drug regimes for their patients.
Other specialist areas include anaesthetics, obstetrics, gynaecology, radiology and oncology. Hospital doctors may also be involved in teaching and carrying out research.

As well as treating patients they also have administrative duties such as keeping patient records, and writing reports and letters to the referring GP or other doctor. Increasingly, doctors undertake managerial responsibilities in hospitals and are involved in committee meetings and auditing.

What's the working environment like working as a Hospital Doctor?

Hospital doctors work very long and irregular hours, especially the more junior staff. They work shifts and an on-call rota system. Junior doctors should not work more than 56 hours a week; by 2009 this will be reduced further to a maximum limit of 48 hours a week.

The work of a hospital doctor can be demanding and both mentally and physically stressful. Specialists carrying out surgical procedures may have to stand for long periods of time.

Generally, working conditions in hospitals are clean, modern and comfortable. Hospital doctors work in different settings depending on their speciality. These include consulting rooms, wards, operating theatres, laboratories and special units such as accident and emergency or x-ray departments. They may work with complex medical equipment.

What does it take to become a Hospital Doctor?

To be a hospital doctor you should:

  • have an interest and ability in science
  • be prepared to continually update your knowledge and learn new techniques
  • be able to absorb and draw on large amounts of scientific and technical information
  • have an interest in and concern for the well-being of patients
  • have excellent communication skills
  • be able to put people at their ease and inspire their trust and confidence
  • have the practical ability and manual dexterity for examining patients and performing clinical procedures
  • work well in and be able to lead a team
  • be able to work under pressure and make quick clear decisions
  • work consistently to high professional standards
  • be able to train, teach and supervise staff.

Hospital Doctor Career Opportunities

There are approximately 62,000 hospital doctors in the NHS. There are also an increasing number of doctors in private hospitals. There are limited opportunities for hospital doctors in the armed forces. Currently, there is a shortage of NHS doctors and hospitals are recruiting from overseas.

Most NHS consultants do some private work and the number of patients paying for private medical consultations, treatment and surgery is increasing.

Competition for promotion through the various training grades can be keen, depending on the specialist area chosen. General surgery and cardiology, for example, are highly competitive specialities; geriatrics less so. Relocation to take up more senior positions is common.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Hospital Doctor that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

NHS Learning and Development Service
Tel: 08000 150 850
Email: learning@nhscareers.nhs.uk

British Medical Association (BMA)
Tavistock Square
Tel: 020 7387 4499

General Medical Council (GMC)
Regent's Place
350 Euston Road
Tel: 0845 357 3456

The Royal College of Physicians
11 St Andrews Place
Regent's Park
Tel: 020 7935 1174

Royal College of Surgeons of England
35-43 Lincoln’s Inn Fields
Tel: 020 7405 3474

Facts and Stats:

  • The biggest blood transfusion was carried out in 1970 and totalled 1,080 litres.
  • The record number of surviving multiple births is seven, recorded in both Illinois, USA and Saudi Arabia.
  • The thumb has a special section, separate from the area that controls the fingers, reserved for it in the brain.

Courses to help you become a Hospital Doctor