When is a junior doctor not a junior doctor?
The answer is not ‘When they grow up’, but ‘When they work in the UK’, according to England’s chief medical officer.
The ‘junior’ descriptor was flagged last week by an Oxford professor as being ‘unjust, progressively inaccurate and detrimental to self-esteem.’ Chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies agreed with him that hospitals should consider updating their nomenclature for doctors who have only recently graduated.
However, the online response from the not-senior-doctors themselves has been less supportive.
Some noted that delineations in levels of medical responsibility already do exist, for very good reason, so obscuring them with a more cryptic title helps nobody. Tell it like it is!
The ‘junior’ debate is merely the latest in the endless series of quandaries about naming groups of people. If there is one, universal rule about labelling for any population that is a minority or vulnerable, it is this: after a decade or so, the name gets on the nose.
I recall being amazed as a medical student when I discovered ‘spastic’ referred to muscle tone. Hard to believe it had once been an acceptable description for a disparate group of people whose care needs were defined by reduced mobility.
In my schoolyard, of course, the term was pure insult, and had been replaced by the far kinder ‘disabled’. Kinder for a decade or so, until that descended into the same sociological mire, to be superseded by ‘person with a disability’. Continue reading