Here we try and answer some of the most frequently asked questions, and will endeavour to add to these as questions arise.
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 only 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 always blind copy the senders.
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 created a website, a new matching system, and continued to reach even more FY1s all across the UK. Since then we’ve continued to try and develop and improve in keeping with feedback from buddies and FY1s - so please keep it coming as it really helps. Our hope is to be accessible to any FY1 who may want some extra support through a buddy.
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 another doctor who has volunteered to support and guide them through the year, and 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 local/regional medical education team to email the FY1s and other doctors in your area. 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?
Although minimal, we still have running costs. Having this website costs us money and is our main cost at present. We would therefore greatly appreciate it if people who support what we’re doing would like to contribute to our running costs. Of course if we were to raise more than our current costs, we would be looking to further invest it in this scheme. If you feel able to donate you can do so here.
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. If you have any suggestions of potential sources for further funding do please let get in touch.
What if my buddy/FY1 doesn’t respond?
When matched, both buddy and FY1 will receive an email to let them know with names and email addresses of both parties. Please respond to each other when you can - this is the responsibility of both of you and shouldn’t be left to one side to initiate. Of course we know that rotas can be busy, inboxes can overflow and spam filters can also play havoc and so if you don’t get a response to your initial contact please do try again. If there is still no luck please do let us know, and we can attempt to make contact with the buddy/FY1 or consider rematching if felt appropriate.
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.
Of course if at any time you want to leave the scheme or feel in need of some additional support please do get in touch.
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 the 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. If there is an issue with the matching process we will email you to try and find an appropriate solution. We normally try to match FY1s within a week or two of signing up, although there can sometimes be a bit of a delay after we first launch due to increased numbers and awaiting buddies to sign up too.
What if I don’t hear back from my buddy?
This can occasionally be a problem if emails end up in junk/spam 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.
Equally it is important to remember that these relationships work both ways, and we would encourage all participants, buddies and FY1s to endeavour to respond within a reasonable time frame as sometimes a lack of response can be concerning for the other person. If you’re going on holiday or on a busy run of oncalls, it might be worth considering letting your buddy know in advance.
Can I get career guidance for a particular specialty?
If you specify when registering a particular specialty that you want advice on, 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.
However, our primary aim is helping people through FY1 and it’s worth remembering that there are plenty of other resources for career advice. If your main priority is career advice, you may not get what you want from the FY1 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. Our network exists more to help FY1s survive and thrive during FY1 itself, 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 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 when signing up, specifying what you need in addition to the buddy you already have.
I’ve been matched with 2 buddies, is this right?
Yes! Often when an FY1 has specified additional support topics it isn’t possible to match them completely with just one buddy. As buddies are all volunteers sometimes they might be in different areas or have different topics of expertise. We will always prioritise matching FY1s with a local buddy where possible and the FY1 has asked for face to face support and your 2nd buddy could be more distant. When signing up there is an option to put preferences on whether you just want one buddy, or face to face or remote pairings only, so please do consider this. If there is an issue with matching we will contact individuals by email, but equally if your preferences change please do let us know. Buddies won’t necessarily know that you have 2 buddies unless you tell them, so please be sure to respond to both and extend them both the same courtesy.
I’ve changed my mind and no longer want support, what do I do?
Some people thrive in FY1 posts, and so this is great if you feel like you don’t need a buddy any longer. Make sure you let your buddy know and us so we can update our records accordingly. If you don’t feel able to tell your buddy for whatever reason, then please contact us rather than just not responding to them.
If at any point there is an issue with the buddying relationship please do get in touch, and if you would like to be reassigned or have an additional buddy this can be facilitated, just let us know.
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. 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.
After much consideration, we don’t offer certificates for portfolios as we are unable to comment on the nature of your relationship with your FY1(s). We suggest if you do want to evidence your participation in the scheme that you could include a copy of your matching email alongside a reflection on your experience of being a buddy.
At the end of the year we do distribute a certificate to all FY1s that they can complete and send on to buddies as they feel is appropriate. Please do not pressure FY1s to provide evidence directly for you, as this can seriously affect the relationship between you, and your priority through all this should be supporting FY1s.
What would I need to do?
You would need to meet with your FY1 as soon as you can arrange after your matching, and as local social distancing measures allow. This meeting would typically be at the hospital the FY1 is working at (eg in the cafe), unless you agree somewhere else that is convenient for you both. If you are allocated an FY1 who isn’t geographically close to you, or social distancing restrictions are in place we suggest you have an initial video call instead.
Throughout the year you should keep in regular contact, 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.
You can choose 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 the year (August 2021 to August 2022). 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, 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 still welcome you to register. Equally we often look to more remote buddies when matching FY1s who have specified any additional needs.
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 generally 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 you are willing to accept FY1s that aren’t geographically close (ie remote buddying) you are more likely to get matched, as this does increase the number of FY1s we could match you with.
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 in 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 our records ensuring we don't overburden you or potentially give you more FY1s if you have capacity and there is need.
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 over a couple of weeks, 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. Although some buddies are understandably 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.
Equally make sure that you reply promptly to any FY1s you are paired with and continue to do so through the year. We know we'll all have periods where this may not be as easy - on a tough run of oncalls or on holiday for example, it may be worth considering letting your FY1 know if this might be the case.
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. 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, you can 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.