Starting the new year is always a daunting time. Whether you’re starting an internship or moving into your first job as a registrar. It always takes time to adjust to a new job and find your feet. So, give yourself that time and don’t be too hard on yourself. Below are some pearls of wisdom from doctors and other healthcare professionals at varying stages of their careers about how to survive and thrive. Some advice is serious and sombre, other advice is more tongue-in-cheek. For example, my BEER mnemonic (Be Zen; Embrace opportunity; Empower yourself; Revel or relax). Pay attention to what makes sense to you and find your own path. We have faith in you.
No matter how exhausted or frustrated you are, be kind. Even if a colleague isn’t kind to you. You will make some life-long friends in these next few years, who will go on this journey with you and become consultants. One day, you’ll reminisce together about the time you were interns sitting around drinking Nescafé and eating hospital biscuits. This strong bond you will have forged together, often through stressful and difficult situations, will eventually go on to help others. It’s a great feeling to be able to pick up the phone and call a friend you trust about your patient.
Life in medicine is a marathon, not a sprint.
Enjoy the camaraderie of your intern year. The friendships forged in this year will last a lifetime.
Be kind to yourself.
You will learn most in the terms that you didn’t want to do, from the doctors that you didn’t think you would and from the patients that you didn’t want to see.
Know that the patient you didn’t want to see, and they not you, will remember what you did for them. They will remember how you saved them. 20 years on…
They will remember your seemingly and initially cold, distant and uncommunicative approach which with time revealed a wicked sense of humour. You may share a laugh, they may think of you fondly, and as a bit of a legend…
Things and people are not always as they seem. My advice is, try to reserve judgment until you know as much of the story as possible.
This is from a mnemonic I made up for a talk I gave to interns back in 2015 (I had written the slides while at the pub).
My approach to internship and the lessons I’ve learnt – B E E R. (No more than NHMRC guidelines.) My advice:
Look out for each other. I have many regrets about being so busy and focused on my own world that I didn’t take the time to reach out to colleagues. Sometimes when they reached a crisis (stress leave, substance abuse, suicide) I realised in retrospect that there were moments where an intervention from a supportive colleague might have resulted in a different outcome. I’m getting better at just popping into offices (actually, more than that- doing the ‘planned ambush’ and making it look fortuitous is an art form!) and saying, “How are you going? Can I help? I’m just around the corner, sing out anytime.”
And, when they do come, learning to sit on my hands. Surgeons like to fix things but are not so good at listening first. Take the time to listen, take some more time, and then more time again. Often they’ll figure out their own solution while talking to you.
Be curious, be humble, be kind.
Seek fulfilment, seek balance, seek mentors.
Value education, value science, value humanity.
Reflect. Grow. Thrive!
Don’t stop calling until you find a friend. Be it a patient you are worried about or yourself that you are worried about. Don’t stop calling until you find someone who can help. It may not seem like it, but there is always someone who can help.
Don’t take your breaks at your desk. It’s better for your mental health to take a proper break. And it’s a good way to get to know your colleagues by eating in the tea room.
“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like, ‘What about lunch?’” – A.A.Milne a.k.a Pooh Bear.
I.e. communicate, communicate, communicate, eat lunch and don’t overcomplicate things.
Don’t lie. It’s so easy to say in the handover, “Yes, the patient didn’t have a family history of heart disease.” (When you didn’t ask.) Or when referring a patient to another speciality, “Ahhh…yes their visual acuity is normal.” (When you didn’t check.) If you didn’t do something, you didn’t do something and it’s ok to say that you didn’t. Don’t lie.