In the United Kingdom, the term senior house officer refers to junior doctors who are in residency within a hospital, gaining valuable experience and training to become a specialist in their desired medical profession. Being supervised by hospital registrars and consultants, who administer their training and act as their nominated supervisors. A junior doctor can expect to work as a senior house officer for between two and three years before they become experienced enough to apply for a registrar position in their chosen specialty to further their education within their future area of expertise. To qualify for a registrar position, suitable candidates must also be in positions approved by a postgraduate dean, as well as surfacing the requirements of passing the required postgraduate examinations.

Although the role of these doctors usually involves a time period of two to three years, not all of this time will be dedicated to a single hospital or department. During this time, it is expected that these junior doctors will rotate in six month periods, experiencing the medical profession in various hospital environments and learning from numerous peers. The purpose of the role of senior house officer, or commonly referred to as residency in the United States and numerous Commonwealth countries, is to build upon the varied collection of clinical skills, medical knowledge and restricted medical practice to develop a thorough and in-depth knowledge through particular training in a specialist area. However, the role should not be underestimated. The senior house officer, or resident, often act as the primary surgeon for many routine operations and are often one of the main contacts for hospitalised patients when the rounds are conducted. They must be medically proficient and have an ability to connect with people, especially in their times of need.

As the junior doctors progress through their process of training and supervision, they are presented with additional roles and responsibilities. Once the role of residency or senior house officer has been completed to the satisfaction of the individual’s supervisors and the regulatory bodies administering the course of education, they will receive a certificate of completion and be officially registered as a senior doctor. The two most popular posts for senior doctors are either general practitioners or consultants. In the role of a consultant, these senior doctors are charged with the responsibility of training the next wave of junior doctors in positions of senior house officer.