In the UK, all doctors begin their careers as medical students and often complete additional training to earn the titles of consultant, GP, or SAS (staff grade, associate specialist, and speciality) physician.
The titles of doctors and their grades are described in the sections that follow.
Medical students typically undertake a five-year course of study for undergraduate or a four-year postgraduate course to become a doctor. This usually includes two years studying basic medical sciences, followed by three years of more clinical training during which they work in hospital wards under the supervision of consultants.
Junior doctors are qualified doctors in clinical training. They have completed a medical degree and foundation training and have anywhere up to eight years' experience working as a hospital doctor, depending on their specialty, or up to three years in general practice. All junior doctors work under the supervisor of a senior doctor
Common titles for junior doctors:
FY1, FY2, SHO (Senior House Officer) ST (Speciality Registrar).
Whilst still junior, Registrars are often referred to as ‘Middle Grades’ and are usually ST3+.
SAS doctors are experienced and senior doctors in permanent posts. They have at least four years of full-time postgraduate training, two of which have been in their relevant specialty. SAS doctors work in hospitals and have a very ‘hands on’ role with a lot of patient contact.
Many SAS doctors have made a positive choice to step into a SAS position from a traditional consultant training pathway. This could be for reasons such as geographical stability and the chance to work regular hours in a chosen specialty. It often provides a better work-life balance.
There are routes, through gaining CESR (certificate of eligibility for specialist registration) or applying for a training post, for SAS doctors to become consultants if they want to.
Senior physicians who are recognised on the GMC's specialist register and have finished full medical training in a specific field of medicine are known as consultants. In charge of overseeing SAS and junior doctors, they have both clinical and administrative duties.
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