Rota Gap

My surgical team consists of consultants, a registrar, a core trainee (CT) and a couple of foundation doctors. Because of the varying on call rotas, we aren’t all on at the same time. Like any rota, if there’s bad coordination then it may cause a rota gap, where there isn’t a sufficient number to cover the ward. This was Week 4 and it was already happening. To make matters worse, it felt like it was my responsibility to fix it.

Why was it my responsibility? I didn’t understand it either. It seems it was on me to find someone else to fill the gap. Which I’d tried to do. I’d asked other F1s, multiple times, whether they would be willing to cross cover for at least one of those days: and I got subpar responses. How hard should I have pushed? If someone said no, what else could I say? I didn’t feel it was my place to coerce people. It wasn’t an easy position to be in. I ended up feeling really sorry for me, in dramatic fashion silently screaming ‘why is it always me?’

What made it worse was getting flack from the core trainee and then by the registrar which I didn’t appreciate. (At this point it was just me as the other foundation doctor was now on zero days, so I was the only visible one if that makes sense). The rotas are online. You can see your own rota and everyone else’s on the surgical firm. So, I really didn’t appreciate the CT making it my fault that he wasn’t enlightened earlier. Excuse me?

Where else in this country would it be the employee’s responsibility to make up for the rota co-ordinators mistake? Where else would the responsibility lie on the most junior member of the team to sort out. It’s the kind of additional stress that I don’t need. And it’s the kind of thing that makes me feel resentful.

I think I just assumed that the rota that had been provided would be right. I appreciate I could have escalated earlier, but in that time, I was trying to get cover. Anyway, the issue was resolved by me offering to come in and cover those couple of days even though I was supposed to be off (but I can take those at a later date).

Please comment below, I’m really interested to know what everyone’s opinion is.

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  1. It’s not your problem.

    I definitely understand the pressure they’ve placed on you to ‘fix it’ but you didn’t write the rota; heck I’m sure you don’t even get a say! You did the moral thing in the end but it was not the right thing for you.

    Make it clear to them that this is not your fault, but that of the rota co-ordinator. Make she he/she knows about the problem, then walk away for them to fix it. Patient safety, yes I know, but as long as you don’t take a small stand, then they (rota co-ordinator, your seniors) will take advantage of your position, and keep expecting that same leeway in ever increasing amounts every single time.

    This is not your fault, and I hope I’m not making it seem that you’re a pushover or that you don’t have a backbone – you need one to work in medicine! What I’m saying is that there are some things you can do, and some things you can’t. You cannot magically have another F1 cover your shift unless they are willing, so the choice is to either 1. cover it yourself, increase your workload, stress and tiredness or 2. tell the rota co-ordinator and tell your CT/reg that it is not your responsibility to find someone else to cover.

    I know you do have to ‘give’ way a lot but I think that has been partly why we’re in this mess (regarding the junior doc contract) – for far too long trusts, managers and those in charge of our schedules have taken advantage of our good will, which has allowed them to continue being, at times, very unproductive.

    I know that some why cry out ‘but the patients!’ and I’m not for one suggesting that ease of work/comfort take priority over patient safety – but the line needs to be drawn somewhere, and that starts by not taking any shit from your CT/reg about this. Of course you’re polite and respectful but stand firm in this matter. I feel like whenever you do try to stand up for yourself people label you as ‘arrogant’, unwilling to take one for the team, trouble-maker etc. You’re not. I suppose others will say to me ‘just wait till you start F1, then you’ll see what its like’ and they are right. It will eventually come down to me accepting years of tradition, the ‘that’s the way we do things’ or taking a stand at times and risk some dipshit trying to cause problems for me.

    Don’t let others stress you up and don’t let anything take away your peace of mind. Do the best you can each day and when you come home, try (although its pretty damn hard) to unwind and do something else. That’s all anyone could ever ask.

    1. I read this too late. I did come in and work those two days. But it’s reassuring to know that I’m not making a mountain out of a mole hill. Expecting the F1 to take responsibility for poor rota coordination is unfair and it doesn’t fix the issue. I think you’ve made a valid point about our good will being taken advantage of.
      I take your point on standing firm and I wish I could have stood up for myself. I wanted to avoid confrontation. And at this point in the year, I’m tired and fed up.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment. Particularly the last bit. After another rough day, of letting someone else get the better of me, this is probably the best advice I could have received right now.

  2. Hi Zed,

    If you’re ever thinking that there’s no reward in doing a blog, there is. You’re satisfying your readers, even if they don’t comment. I suppose it’s a good way to formulate and reflect on your own thoughts and feelings.

    In response this blog post; of course you can look back on it and persuade yourself that you could have done something to stop the rota problem earlier. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. I think that you did the right thing to cover those extra days though 🙂

    I myself am an aspiring medic, in the first year of college, applying this year and am relying on your blog as an honest insight into life as an FY1 ;). I understand that there are difficulties and frustration, bu. do you enjoy your job? Would you recommend it to my generation, or do you regret any choices? (I’m fairly set on it but would love to hear your opinion)

    Thanks and keep o blogging 🙂


    1. I’m sorry it’s taken me this long to reply, your comment was hidden as spam! To answer your question: no, I don’t enjoy my job. It’s a build up of so many factors. But I also have to be honest and ask myself whether medicine was even the right career for me to begin with. I was never really sure about it. Plus, I was the first in my family and I didn’t know any other medics to ask. I’d urge you to not let my blog discourage you especially if you’re sure. The NHS is in a tough patch but nothing is ever permanent. I wish you the best of luck with applying. Thanks for reading my blog and for commenting!

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