SFP (specialised foundation programme)

Job Reviews: Respiratory as a Foundation Doctor

Natalie, a foundation doctor gives her perspective of her rotation on Respiratory, the tasks involved and some of the challanges.

What will we cover?


My last rotation as a foundation year one doctor was in respiratory. I was working within a busy tertiary centre hospital in Sheffield, and there were several respiratory wards. As foundation doctors, we worked mainly on one ward-based team but could go to other wards occasionally. We also did the respiratory post-take ward round – seeing all the patients who had been admitted under respiratory that day. 

So, what kind of things does a respiratory job involve?

  • WARD ROUND: We always began the day with a board round, and we saw patients on ward rounds. This was a mixture of senior-led reviews and seeing patients independently. This was an excellent chance to gain skills in reviewing patients alone, but there was lots of senior support available when you needed it. 
  • INVESTIGATIONS: On any medical job, you will get lots of experience requesting and interpreting investigations, for example, blood tests, scans, imaging. It is an excellent job for getting used to interpreting sputum results and chest x-rays.  There were also opportunities to go to the pleural room to see pleural taps and drains. 
  • REFERRALS: Again, this is true of most medical specialities. Respiratory patients can be complex and require input from many teams, including physiotherapists, occupational therapists, specialist nurses, pharmacists, dieticians, and many other specialities. You will work closely with specialist respiratory physios and asthma/COPD nurses, and you will learn so much from them – they are invaluable resources! 
  • CLINICAL SKILLS: Respiratory is a great job to gain experience with practical skills, for example, managing chest drains and, above all else, doing and interpreting ABGs (I lost count of how many I did!). This is a really good skill to carry forward as a doctor. 

Why should you consider it?

  1. Wide range of both acute conditions like pneumonia and chronic conditions like lung cancer. It also covers a wide range of age groups, from young adults with asthma exacerbations and cystic fibrosis to elderly patients with COPD. This made the job varied and exciting. 
  2. I got to work alongside a big team of other junior doctors and medical trainees, and a wide range of different specialities and members of the MDT. This was useful for professional development and help when needed. 
  3. It was useful to get the practice doing and interoperating ABGs as you will use this all the time as a doctor. 

Things to consider before applying

  1. It is a busy department and therefore as a junior you can have a lot to get done during the day. However, it is a big MDT and generally well-staffed, and I regularly got home on time. 
  2. Respiratory patients can be very poorly and deteriorate very quickly due to various issues, including oncological emergencies. This can be a challenging thing to deal with as a junior but is useful to gain experience in. Senior support is always available when needed. 
  3. You will most likely be part of the acute medical rota as a medical job. This is not a respiratory specific thing, but out of hours work and night, shifts can be tiring and makes that work-life balance trickier. 

Final Words

All in all, this was an enjoyable job. It was busy and, at times, stressful. However, I came away with lots of knowledge and skills useful for future jobs. Overall, I recommend this as a job during foundation training.

5 1 vote
Usefulness out of 5
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