Getting to know yourself


Coming up to the end of your speciality training, year 3 (ST3 year), it can be difficult to know what your next steps might be. Applying for a salaried job, applying for a post-certificate of completion of training (CCT) fellowship or even considering partnership, may be things that might be on your mind. At times it may be difficult to know what decisions to make and where your career might go. In this article, Dr Hana Patel encourages readers to find out more about themselves by reviewing their values in order to make personal and professional decisions.

It is not often during the 3-year general practice speciality training programme that trainees have time to reflect on decisions they have made. Training programmes may cover sessions, such as ‘life after training’ and ‘applying for jobs’, but it can be difficult to tailor sessions related to individual trainees and their career and life choices. Reviewing values can be a way to try and get to know oneself. It may help with decision-making to be explicit about our own values. It can be helpful to consider the values of the organisations and people we work with.


Values can be defined as ‘principles or standards of behaviour; one's judgement of what is important in life’. Values are important to us as professionals and the organisations we work with have described those that they consider most important. For example, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has summarised 12 values into four core values; ‘excellence, teamwork, leadership and care’. As members, or aspiring members, of the RCGP we should be aware of these values and consider them alongside our own judgement about what is important to us. The NHS has also defined six core values:

  • Respect and dignity

  • Commitment to quality of care

  • Compassion

  • Improving lives

  • Working together for patients

  • Everyone counts


There are other values that, as professionals, we should be aware of, including for example, those of the General Medical Council (GMC). Government policy reflects governmental values and expectations, as for example in the NHS Code of Practice on confidentiality. Clinical guidelines from the National Institute for Health Care and Excellence (NICE) are underpinned by values, as they exist to provide safe and effective clinical care in the context of optimal use of healthcare resources.

Employers will have values either explicitly declared or reflected in written policies, protocols, contracts and guidelines. For example, in the local prescribing formulary, the hospital or practice complaints protocol or a whistleblowing policy.

Can you define your own core values?

There are many ways of doing this, but one way is to think of professional and personal situations that made you feel happy, proud, fulfilled or satisfied. Thinking about values in this way may enable personal values to be defined and help you discover what is truly important to you. By looking back on experiences that made you feel good and confident, or choices that felt good, you may be able to distil your own values. Table 1 has some examples of values to consider. There may be others not listed here that are important to you.


Table 1. Examples of values.

Table 1. Examples of values.

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The next step is to reduce the list down to your top ten values. This can be difficult, but it is possible to identify values that are most important to you. Once you have identified them, they can be tested to ensure that they fit with your life, your hopes and your sense of purpose in life.

Defining one’s personal values can help the discovery of purpose and help with decision making. For example, when applying for a job or choosing a career pathway. Values can help in developing a sense of self and finding motivation. Comparing your own values with those of the organisation you work for may even help resilience and happiness at work. Values can even help with managing complaints and finding solutions to personal and professional problems.


Dr Hana Patel

References and further information

  Cambridge Dictionary. Available at: (accessed 20 November 2019).
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  Department of Health (2003) Confidentiality, NHS Code of Practice. Available at: (accessed 20 November 2019).
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  General Medical Council (2013) Good Medical Practice: Duties of a doctor. Available at: (accessed 20 November 2019).
Google Scholar
  RCGP (2017). Strategic Plan. Available at: (accessed 20 November 2019).
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Conclusion: Final words Values are important to us both personally and professionally. Values will affect how we practice as doctors. They are defined by organisations explicitly, as in the GMC’s guidance ‘Duties of a doctor’ (GMC, 2013), by the RCGP and by the NHS. They may be reflected in the policies and contracts of other organisations we work with and for. This article may prompt you to consider the benefits of looking at the declared values of others, but also to consider your own values. Finall
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