Junior Doctors: Working with a TV crew on my tail

Wednesday 16 January 2013, 09:32

Jennifer Whiteley Jennifer Whiteley Junior Doctor

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As if starting work as a doctor wasn't intimidating enough, I decided it was a good idea to let a film crew follow me, right from my first shift at The Royal Liverpool University Hospital.

I have always enjoyed a challenge. Almost every step I took for the first few weeks was with two of the TV crew right behind.

Luckily enough, my closest friends Tom and Emily agreed to be filmed on Junior Doctors too, so we could also share this experience.

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The junior doctors chat about their concerns before their first shift on the ward

I'm particularly grateful I stayed in Liverpool for my foundation training after graduating because I have been able to share all the highs and lows with Tom and Em.

Getting to know a new job, a new hospital, a new team of colleagues, as well as a film crew was exciting! There were however, times when having a TV crew following me was difficult.

I was happy to have the crew with me as long as the patients were happy, but there were times when I felt it was too much to continue filming because of the nature of the conversations or procedures.

In these cases, I asked the film crew to stop filming, even though I knew these were the moments they were so desperately hoping for.

Protecting patients' privacy and dignity is something that has been drilled into all medical students from the beginning of our training.

One of my most memorable moments of the filming didn't even make the cut... I was being filmed at graduation and I discovered there was a MASSIVE insect in my mortar board.

I completely freaked out in front of the cameras.

I remember thinking during the ceremony, 'If I can't even stay calm about an insect, how on earth am I going to survive as a doctor, and why have I put myself through doing it in front of thousands of TV viewers?'

The juniors on the ward: Kiera, Ollie, Tristan, Emily, Ed, Tom and Jen The juniors on the ward: Kiera, Ollie, Tristan, Emily, Ed, Tom and Jen

I've seen the whole of series three of Junior Doctors. I really enjoyed the private viewing with the other junior doctors but it was always going to be a hard watch for me because my nature is to be quite self-critical.

The first few episodes we all watched together in the shared house, with a few members of the film crew who had become close friends, and a couple of glasses of wine.

It was really quite an unreal experience, almost out of body, as I have never seen or heard myself on camera before.

I could remember filming the interviews and wondering how what I had said would be interpreted. This was the first time we'd see how they all turned out.

It was also interesting seeing the editor's interpretation of what happened and what they focused on, which was often very different to what I found interesting or important about the situation.

I was pleasantly surprised by the viewing and I have to say we all just laughed a lot.

Jennifer Whiteley Jennifer Whiteley in her scrubs

All of us had painful moments but you wouldn't do a programme of this nature if you didn't have the ability to laugh at yourself.

After we had seen the final episode it felt like we'd closed the chapter in that book. I had forgotten that it hadn't even really begun, as nobody else had seen it on TV yet.

I learned so much about myself while doing the programme. Nobody else ever gives you as much air time to talk about yourself and you constantly have to reflect on your day's work and the interactions you have.

In some ways I think it may have helped me to recognise things that I found hard or could have handled differently, simply because someone was always asking me why I did it!

Since starting work my confidence has grown but increasingly I realise how much more I have to learn and I am excited to start learning!

I remain grateful to patients and their relatives who have let me into times of their lives which are so deeply personal.

Jennifer Whiteley is a foundation year one doctor on Junior Doctors.

Series three of Junior Doctors begins on Thursday, 17 January at 9pm on BBC Three. For further programme times, please see the episode guide.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    As one of the memebers of the 'Doctors to be' group this brings back memories. Well done.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    I remember watching doctors to be when I was a school child! I was obsessed with the show! It was one of the reasons I went into medicine! And I still recall you in the programme John Shepard!

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    A good programme but wish the girls would tie and clip their hair back - they are constantly pushing their hair behind their ears and out of their eyes - not good for infection control and must surely be in the way when they are trying to perform procedures! Very annoying!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    In addition to all previous comments have watched all series and loved them all. But as a now ''medically retired senior ward manager'' the 'hair' issue drives me mad. This is part of infection control, along with ties, white coats and hand-washing. In my hospital it was part of the induction process, along with resus, ventflons etc etc. On my ward they weren't let out of the office until it was done! And that included the men. So I dont know how the med student who was on the last series of University Challenge is going to feel, cos he will be going to my hospital!! Sorry going off the point. Enjoying it so far. YAAAAAY John Shephard I do so remember you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    I was horrified to see that the Junior doctors were wearing their scrubs from home into the hospital -surely this brings with it the massive risk of infection into the hospital - common sense shows that doctors should change from their outside clothes to scrubs once in the hospital environment. I agree with another viewer that hair should be tied back - again a contamination risk if it is hanging around the doctors face.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Jen walked though town in her scrubs,, no wonder hospitals have an infection problem.
    She also needs to learn how to draw up an injection. she should not hold the ample upside down, she wasted morphine. and put her self at risk by getting medication on her skin.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    The slob on the left, Kiera, needs to do something about her footwear. You can tell a lot from the footwear people use.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    I think Jen is going to be a brilliant doctor. I admire all these guys for their work, it is often thankless work. But I am glad there are people like them, but I am a Jen fan. I wish them all the best

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    I am a Dr and I can its very difficult to keep scrubs inside the hospital. I take mine home to wash them but never actually wear them at home. Once washed they then go straight into a sealed bag which I get changed into at the hospital. As Drs we try as much as possible to reduce contamination but after all our scrubs do need to be washed. After a nightshift I left my scrubs on while I went to collect my phone from Manchester City. Which resulted in me being asked to help a lady who was having a heart attack. If I didn't have my scrubs on that day which has written on the front and back DOCTOR... may be the lady would have had a different out come. I have long hair which is always tied back..

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    @7. Archimedes Screwed


    Her sneakers look cleaner than the others. Maybe you're just not a fan of the tongue over the trousers approach...

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Archimedes Screwed, i'm sure the patients whose lives she saves daily aren't really bothered by her choice of footwear.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Hi Junior Dr's. Having spent many weeks and months at the royal Liverpool over the last 6 years, I have to say the care I received was amazing. I recognized quite a few people on the programme but have yet to come across any of the Junior Dr's in the current series. I will shortly be coming back in for more surgery, but in orthopedic dept rather than my usual, colorectal ward. I hope Olli will be on my ward when I've been admitted!!! Say hello to Mr Heath, Gastro consultant & surgeon, he is brilliant, very clever guy!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Junior Doctors is brilliant, I work in the Royal with 2 of the Drs featured in the 3rd series, I can only say they are fab.. I wish them all every success in the future, where ever they end up they will be an asset to any team.. Dr Jen you will go far and Dr Ed you have come along away and will also go far, so will the rest of your house mates, who I may one day also get the pleasure of working with.. I have really enjoyed working with you both!! The trainer, scrubs and the hair issues does not affect how you treat your patients, especially when there are more important issues such as saving patient lives!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Hi with much respect I put the junior doctors out of my room twice after they refused my warfarin! That cost me an extra week in hospital! Also I hated and cringed watching them trying to put a canula in! They have caused me much pain compared to the nurses which caused none. In the end I refused to deal with juniors at all or I would have self discharged.
    It is wrong to set them off loose on wards most of time clueless and it is horible to have them stab people with canulas several times so they can learn!
    Where I had my heart surgery done I ve seen no juniors by themselves . The shadowed a consultant.
    It makes me really angry watching this tv show as one of this juniors almost killed me

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    For God sake juniors can not canulate! Let nurses do it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    I was hugely offended by the Junior Drs bragging about what they would spend their "ash cash" money on during this weeks programme. FYI this money charged for signing the cremation forms comes from the deceased family or estate and is distributed via the funeral director. I would ask why it isn't paid directly to the hospital instead of an individual Dr who pockets it. It seems a very outdated practise.

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    Comment number 17.

    I'm a new junior doctor too and there are just a few things I'd like to respond to...

    - I agree that hair should be tied up wherever possible, and in my hospital infection control keep an eye on that sort of thing.
    - In regards to wearing scrubs outside of hospital, there is actually no evidence that there is any extra contamination of clothing (this years christmas BMJ) and the majority of doctors/pharmacists/managers wear their own clothing at work and this never gets commented on.
    - In terms of putting in venflons, I agree we are rubbish as compared with support workers, however there is not always a support worker around, and if they can't manage to do it they will come straight to a doctor anyway, therefore we only really tend to have to do the hard ones. However, we do have to learn, otherwise you will get a generation of doctors who cannot put them in when everyone else has tried and failed, or put them in during cardiac arrests and anaethetists who can't put them in pre-op, so patient care would suffer greatly. It's also nothing we've not had done to ourselves, as during uni I learnt by practicing on other students and them on me.
    - Finally, juniors get paid a fee for completing cremation forms as they are not a legal requirement, and by doing so we are taking the professional responsibility/risk for there being no body to exhume should questions about cause of death be asked. And as it doesn't form part of the NHS service, without someone willing to take this risk the person would have to be buried. It does come from the deceased persons estate, but if we refuse it the funeral director keeps the money instead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Good show, anyone know if the BBC will bring it out on dvd as i would like a copy

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Hello lowerbreck (#18)
    I've enquired with BBC Worldwide and I'm afraid it seems there are no plans at the moment for Junior Doctors to be released on DVD. Sorry - thanks for your comment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Imagine my disappointment to see in the most recent episode an entry on an operation note referring to IND as the title of an operation as opposed to "I and D" or "I+D" as eponyms for "incision and drainage of abscess".Imagine my further horror when I saw the word "anaesthetist" written "anaethatist".Is this the price we've paid for the brave new vulnerable lachrymose,inclusive,affirmative,egalitarian and of course safe world of shift-working medicine in this country? I have read that a couple of the TV crew accommpanied this doctor closely for the first few days of filming - pity one of them at least wasn't carrying an English and a medical dictionary.


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