Starting in a New Job

That first day in a new job can feel like the first day of school all over again – will the other kids like me? What will the boss be like? What if I don’t know all the answers?

But bad uniforms and packed lunches aside, walking into a new department, hospital or practice doesn’t have to be the anxiety-ridden, sweaty mess you might imagine.

It’s safe to say I’ve had my fair share of new starts, and in amongst those early days spent fumbling around a new workplace I’ve managed to pick up a thing or two.

So whether for a short-term locum position or a permanent contract, here are some handy hints to help you march through those doors brimming with confidence looking like the responsible, organised professional that you are – no matter how sweaty your palms.


Before You Start

Important things to suss out prior to rocking up for your first day:

  1. Getting to work: if you’re driving is there free/paid/any parking? If you’re taking public transport where are the stops, how frequent is the service, are there any expected delays/cancellations on the day?
  2. What to wear: will you be provided a uniform? What’s the dress code?
  3. Who are you reporting to? At what time? And where? Ensure you have a name and a location before entering the building. Write it down or save it somewhere so you can ask for directions. Plan to arrive 5-10 minutes beforehand, and clarify how long you’re expected to be there on the first day (i.e. just for a few hours of orientation? Or are you straight into seeing patients?)
  4. What to bring: important documents (these may have been requested in an email prior to your start date e.g. registration/insurance details), food (just in case there’s nothing available to purchase)
  5. Read and sign the contract: speaking of important documents you should already have received some sort of job offer with a position description and details of your renumeration. What is actually expected of you in this job? How are you being paid? Are you an employee or a contractor? What hours are you working? How much are you paid per hour/patient?


On the Big First Day

  1. Accessing the building: where do you need to go? Will your department require a key/swipe card and if so how do you arrange one?
  2. Self care: check out the kitchen/food, locker/shower, office space/desk space situation so you know what you need to bring each day and whether you can leave anything there. Do you get your own desk or are you sharing? Are there plates and cutlery in the kitchen? Is there a fridge/kettle/microwave?
  3. Your team: who are your colleagues/new work friends? Who is your direct line manager and/or practice manager? Try to remember at least 3 names and work out who to go to for what. Admin question? Clinical question? What are the escalation pathways for each?
  4. Your environment: what is available in your building? Front desk/waiting area, clinical space, gym, offices, navigating your way around, other businesses in the building or nearby. Can you head down the road to grab food?
  5. Emergency procedures: CPR, fire, earthquake, tsunami. Numbers to call. Where is the nearest defibrillator? Who’s in charge and where do you go if an alarm goes off?
  6. Doing your job: computer access, logins and passwords, how to write your notes, where to find equipment, completing bookings, taking payment, note taking system, local medio-legal responsibilities, communication (email, phone, letters), organising imaging. Get clear on what your role is, who and what you’re responsible for (this should be in your job description), and the admin processes that make all of this happen (e.g. claims, consent forms etc.). Do you know how all the equipment works?
  7. Get clear on your schedule: where do you have to be each day and at what time? Any meetings/inservices you need to be at? When do you get breaks and for how long? Where does everyone eat lunch together?


Throughout Your First Week

  1. Get involved socially: bring cakes to morning teas, attend social events, meet and chat to your new co-workers in the corridor (even if you’re under the pump just a few seconds for a quick hello makes all the difference to both of you!)
  2. Get involved professionally: as you settle into the routine and get efficient at daily processes use your fresh perspective to solve problems, challenge beliefs, be a part of discussion, stimulate alternative ideas and solutions, facilitate productivity, create an energetic environment (be the boost that people need), build cohesion in the team. Don’t get drawn into any local petty disagreements (hopefully there aren’t any!), they just decrease productivity, effective service delivery, patient care standards and job satisfaction. Save yourself the unnecessary frustration
  3. Days off: maybe not something to bring up on the first day! But understand your sick leave entitlements, holiday leave, and know how to book time off. Stuff happens.
  4. Smile! Be friendly and open and others will reciprocate. Do your best to become an effective member of the team


(Oops, in trying to make things simple for you I’ve created a very extensive list! Hopefully this means nothing will take you by surprise…)

Remember, even on your first day, everyone is busy in their regular routine, so don’t expect to have your hand held. The onus is on you to dive in and get cracking at the job you’ve been hired for.

You don’t know what you don’t know: get to know local policies, procedures, protocols and pathways – don’t expect to be handed this stuff, make an effort to learn the systems so you can become an effective part of them.

What you may find interesting in your travels is that each department will have it’s own unique micro-culture. Whether it’s the personalities among staff, local procedures, unspoken rules, or just the habitual ways things are done, you’ll be surprised at how much this wishy-washy kind of stuff indirectly affects your work, clinical reasoning and job satisfaction. This is the stuff that gives you that good or bad “gut feeling” about a place.

I’m sure there is a much more technical word or phrase I’m not aware of to describe this phenomenon… whatever it is, broadening your work experience is a fabulous way not only to see how things are done differently all over the world, but to see your own practice differently in these contexts. Do you treat in a particular way because it is “evidence-based” or because it’s just the way things were done in your previous location?

I can tell you now, your answers to these questions will be massive eye openers…


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