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Junior Doctor Keir: I believe reality TV buffs call this "A Journey"

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Keir Shiels Keir Shiels | 11:59 UK time, Monday, 28 March 2011

And so, it is now my turn to be the next Junior Doctor to type a few words about myself.
Everyone's first day at work is somewhat daunting. One wants to make a good impression, but without being over-keen (mentioning no names) or under-prepared (ditto): it is very important to fit in. However, try fitting in when you've brought a camera crew with you. Those two extra people - one with a large lens and one with what looks like a large fluffy sock on a stick (the sound person) - represent 1.4 million pair of eyes watching your every move - and those of your colleagues. No matter how much you want to fit in, no matter how hard you try, it's going to get you noticed by your colleagues.

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I wouldn't have had the nerve to take part in this project as an F1 doctor (in the first foundation year as a newly qualified doctor), I was a bundle of nerves. I started out on nightshift as the only F1 to look after all the surgical patients in one hospital. My first patient crashed. I had to enlist help from medical, surgical and anaesthetics colleagues. It was enough of a baptism of fire without being asked to reflect on what I was doing by the sock-on-a-stick-person. I admire Adam, Katherine and Lucy for having the guts to do it from day one. I'd have run a mile and, as Lucy will tell you, I never - ever - run.

So what, in the end, made me sign up to the project? Well, there were two reasons. Firstly, I found out that Katherine had signed up to the project (I knew her from my time at Cambridge). This meant that, technically, I probably couldn't avoid the crews even if I dived Rambo-style into the sluice every time they passed. But secondly, I felt that my journey into and through medicine was an interesting one to tell. It was a big and happy journey. As big and happy as... um... Jon.

Junior Doctor Keir Shiels

Junior Doctor Keir Shiels

My career route has wobbled along meandering between science (researching neuropsychology and behavioural genetics), teaching (lecturing students, teaching children) acting and wine-merchanting (it's a long but very happy story). I loved science. I loved teaching, I loved personal interaction. I even enjoyed management. But finding a career that encompassed all of these was hard. Until I went to the doctor. (I should point out that I mean "encompassed all these... except wine". My GP wasn't hitting the Rioja at work.)

Fast-track medical training, for people who already have a degree, has opened up a world that otherwise people could not afford, in either time or money. It has allowed people like me to make a decision in their twenties that most people make a decade earlier. It's a lot of hard work (and fun) doing a five year degree in three and a half, but very fulfilling.

So after graduating from Cambridge (twice) I find myself in Newcastle - back home - with the opportunity to show the sort of doctors we older Juniors are. So how did I cope with the cameras? Truth be told, I didn't notice them most of the time. The man with the lens was - in my head - a consultant. The sock-on-a-stick was a member of my family. And I behaved at work as if they were watching me. Because now, they are.

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As filming went on, I developed more surgical skills on the plastic surgery unit and came to a decision about my future. I believe reality TV buffs call this "A Journey". Within 16 months of starting work as an F1, doctors have to decide what they want to be when they grow up - a GP? A Radiologist? A Pathologist? A Surgeon?

16 months' experience in four different placements and you have to decide which areas of practice you never want to deal with again. It is not long and a weighty decision. My 'journey' was working out whether I wanted to end up as a children's surgeon or a children's medic and I now have my life planned out for the next 8 years. As to what that decision is, you'll have to watch and find out.

Watch Keir in the final episode of Junior Doctors: Your Life in Their Hands at 9pm tomorrow.

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