Here we try and answer some of the most frequently asked questions, and will endeavour to add to these.
How do I know my details are safe with your system?
You enter your details into our google form, and we keep them in a password protected database. We share email addresses between FY1s and buddy pairs, because you need to be able to contact each other! You then choose what other details to share, but we do request that you share mobile numbers, as that’s usually a good way to contact each other. We don’t give your details to anyone else, and when we send emails to multiple people we Bcc.
Why does the FY1 Buddy Network exist?
In July 2017, there was a discussion on the Tea & Empathy facebook group about concerns that new FY1s can have, and doctors shared their memories of difficult times during their FY1 year. It was agreed that it would be nice if every FY1 could have someone supporting them… so a few of us got together to try to make this a reality. Within a couple of days we had made a google form and figured out a system, and in that year had 100 FY1s sign up to get a buddy. In 2018 we made some improvements to the scheme, and grew to over 400 FY1s. In 2019, we have a new website, a new matching system, and our hope is to reach many more FY1s who may want some extra support.
We exist because starting your medical career is a big change in your life, being the most junior doctor in the hospital can be very challenging, and overcoming some of these challenges can feel hard. We believe that every FY1 deserves some support through what can be the most demanding year of your medical career. We know it’s not difficult for everyone, and some people love their FY1 year, but some people don’t - we’d like to link every FY1 who wants it with a doctor volunteer to support and guide them through the year, to be a listening ear when needed.
Why does the FY1 Buddy Network still exist, when hospitals have their own buddy schemes?
It’s great to hear that more hospitals are starting buddy schemes to support FY1s locally, and these can work really well. We’re happy to share our resources to support local buddy schemes - please contact us for this. We would strongly encourage any local buddy scheme to invite doctors to volunteer as buddies, rather than mandate doctors (eg all FY2s) to become buddies - we believe this is less likely to offer the support that may be needed.
However, local buddy schemes only exist in a small number of hospitals currently, and we aim to continue to exist until local buddy schemes exist everywhere, offering every FY1 in the UK the support they want to help them through their first year as a doctor, and there might well still be a role for a national buddy network even beyond then!
Who’s behind this?
Currently, the FY1 Buddy Network is co-ordinated by Dr Lailah Peel Clinical Fellow in A&E in the West of Scotland, Dr Natalia Pawlowska - specialty trainee in histopathology, in the Midlands, Dr Rosanna Bevan - CT2 psychiatry, London, with IT support from David Peel. We are all volunteers. Although we’re not affiliated to the NHS, foundation schools or any other official organisation, the work of our network has been endorsed and encouraged by various foundation school directors and staff within Health Education England.
You can contact any one of us via firstname.lastname@example.org
How can I help spread the word about the FY1 Buddy Network?
Thanks for asking! We’d love to reach far and wide so that every FY1 can receive support from a buddy. Please follow us on twitter and retweet, and like and share our page on facebook. Share our links in your colleague WhatsApp groups, tell your colleagues, ask your department or medical education to email the FY1s and other doctors in your Trust. You can also print our posters and display them in your doctors’ mess.
Why are you asking for money when you are run by volunteers?
Running a website costs money. Currently this has been paid by one of the volunteer co-ordinators, and we would prefer for our volunteers not to be out of pocket. We would therefore greatly appreciate if people who support what we’re doing would like to contribute to our running costs.
We have looked into grants but have been unable to secure any at present, but will be investigating this in the future as further expansion may require greater funding.
I’m an FY1 - why should I sign up to get a buddy?
However well medical school may have prepared you for your working life in the NHS, you may still feel nervous about starting as an FY1. You may be moving to a new area where you don’t know anyone, or have other specific concerns. You may be worried about coping with workload, or specific posts you’ll be rotating to. For any of these challenges, you might find it helpful or reassuring to have a buddy to advise you. They are there to listen to your concerns, offer advice, and signpost you to other support if needed.
Perhaps the question to ask is why not sign up to get a buddy?!
Will I definitely get a buddy?
We aim to match everyone who wants a face-to-face buddy with someone near them. If we don’t have any buddies in your area, we will match you with a remote buddy for video call/phone/email contact. If you register requesting a face-to-face buddy only, and would not like a remote buddy, then we can’t guarantee to match you to a buddy, but will try our best.
What if I don’t hear back from my buddy?
This can occasionally be a problem if emails end up in junk folders, or if someone mistyped their email address when signing up. If you never hear from them after sending two emails, let us know ASAP and we’ll try to match you with a new buddy. If you did initially hear from them, and then don’t get a reply later on, you’ll have their phone number as well so have two ways to contact them. If you still don’t hear back, let us know.
Can I get career guidance for a particular specialty?
If you specify when registering a particular specialty that you want advice from, we will try to match you to someone from that specialty, but this isn’t often possible - we don’t have buddies from every specialty in every hospital. Our aim is helping people through FY1, there are other resources for career advice. If your priority is career advice, you may not get what you want from the buddy network. Instead, Royal Colleges can help with career advice and mentoring, and once settled into your hospital you can seek out someone in your hospital from your chosen specialty, and Twitter can also be helpful. Our network exists more to help FY1s survive and thrive during FY1, with the knowledge that some are not thriving currently due to lack of support, rather than to help you with your future career at this stage.
My hospital has their own scheme and has allocated me a buddy - should I sign up to the FY1 Buddy Network too?
Generally speaking, a buddy allocated at your hospital should meet all your mentoring needs - they’re local to you, they may know the hospital already and they’re willing to provide support. However, if you feel like it doesn’t meet all your needs, and your hospital’s scheme can’t allocate you someone more suitable, you’re welcome to register for a buddy through us. This might be helpful if you have specific requirements such as support for working less than full time, or being an international medical graduate for example, and we can try to match you to someone who can meet those particular needs, even if they aren’t local to you. If you already have your own local buddy/mentor, please do mention this in the extra notes section of the registration form, specifying what you need in addition to the buddy you already have.
For doctors more senior than FY1
I’m a doctor more senior than FY1 - why should I sign up to be a buddy?
A principle that has guided us in setting up the FY1 Buddy Network is “be who you needed when you were younger”. Maybe when you were an FY1 you had support that helped you when things were tough, and you’d like to pay that forward. Maybe you didn’t have the support you needed, but you’d like to offer that support to someone else. Maybe your FY1 year was great, and you’d like to help someone else to have as great a year as you did, with the knowledge that some find the year particularly challenging.
What’s in it for me?
There’s no financial reward, this is strictly a volunteering opportunity. If needed for your portfolio, we can provide a certificate to confirm you have been a buddy for the year; unfortunately we can’t offer this if you weren’t allocated an FY1 (see below for more info). What’s really in it for you is the potential to feel that you’ve made a difference to an FY1 and been helpful when help was needed.
What would I need to do?
You would need to meet with your FY1 in July/August - as soon as you can arrange. This meeting would usually be at the hospital the FY1 is working at (eg in the cafe), unless you agree somewhere else. You’d need to keep in contact with them throughout the year, being guided by them as to how much contact and support they want. You’d give them your mobile number, and keep in contact by text message/whatsapp or email in between when you meet.
If you’re allocated an FY1 who isn’t geographically close to you, this is being a “remote” buddy. You would need to have an initial video call (Skype/messenger/facetime) in July/August - as soon as you can arrange, and ongoing contact by video call, phone, WhatsApp or email as appropriate.
You can chose to register only to be a face-to-face buddy, or only a remote buddy, or you can be willing to do either/both depending on what is needed.
I’m going to be moving around a lot/I locum in lots of places/I’m going travelling/I’m on long-term leave - can I still be a buddy?
In order to be a face-to-face buddy, we ask you to commit to being able to meet your FY1 at or near their hospital at intervals for the duration of their FY1 year. If you won’t be able to do this but would still like to be a buddy, you can sign up as a remote-only buddy. This means you wouldn’t meet your FY1 face-to-face, but would have an initial video call (Skype/messenger/facetime), and ongoing contact by video call, phone, WhatsApp or email as appropriate.
We generally get much fewer requests from FY1s for remote buddies, so it’s less likely that we’ll be able to match you to an FY1 if you register as a remote only buddy, but we will still welcome you to register.
Am I guaranteed to be a buddy?
No. We always have more buddies signing up than FY1s, which is how it should be - otherwise we wouldn’t be able to provide enough buddies for the FY1s who want a buddy. In some hospitals we have many more buddies than FY1s, but in other hospitals it’s the other way round and we don’t have enough buddies. We don’t have the capacity to tell you whether or not we need buddies in your area, so if you’re willing to volunteer as a buddy, please do register with the knowledge that you may or may not be allocated an FY1.
If I don’t get allocated an FY1 this year, will I get one next year?
Only if you register again next year! Doctors, by nature of our jobs, move around. There’s no point us keeping your details from year to year when you may have moved hospital, changed specialty, have new specific areas you can assist with (eg you might have become LTFT so can then advise on this), so we’ll contact you by email inviting you to re-register each year.
Will I get more than one FY1?
When you sign up, you choose how many FY1s you have capacity to be a buddy to. It’s totally fine if this is only one - we would prefer that you commit your limited energies to one FY1 rather than spreading yourself too thinly and taking on too much! If the number you can buddy changes, please let us know so we can update and not allocate too many to you, or give you more FY1s if you have capacity.
What if I don’t hear back from my FY1?
This can occasionally be a problem if emails end up in junk folders, or if someone mistyped their email address when signing up. If you never hear from them after sending two emails, let us know so we can update our database. We may or may not allocate you a new FY1, depending on the need.
It’s also possible that an FY1 doesn’t reply, or later stops replying, because they don’t feel like they need the support. Good for them that they’re doing ok and don’t want any help perhaps?! Although some buddies are disappointed by this situation, we can’t force FY1s to make use of you. They are adults who can decide what support to take up. If it’s clear during the year that your FY1 no longer needs you as a buddy, keep us posted, so we can update our database.
I’ve never done mentoring before. How will I know what to do?
We issue detailed guidance, and we recommend that all buddies undertake the e-Learning for Health module on medical mentoring - it’s really useful! We also direct you to other resources if you’d like more guidance. We also recommend you join our facebook group for buddies (you will get a link to this after registering), and use this as a resource for any help if you need it, for example if your FY1 asks you for advice on something you’re not sure about, ask other buddies in the group.
I’m a doctor more senior than FY1, can I get a buddy too?
Unfortunately at the moment we only have capacity to match FY1s to buddies. If our new system works well, there might in future be capacity to offer buddies to FY2s, FY3s (and beyond) and doctors in specialist training, but it may need more people power to make a bigger scheme work! For now, we would recommend looking into whether your Royal College offers mentoring, looking into any relevant schemes locally, or contacting your Professional Support Unit.