With thanks to the contributors of the Australian Junior Doctors reddit community https://www.reddit.com/r/ausjdocs/
The beginning of each year heralds a new chapter for the new intern doctors Australia welcomes to its health care system. This exciting yet demanding journey demands medical knowledge but also a set of soft skills and an understanding of the healthcare environment. As someone who has literally onboarded hundreds of new Interns in previous roles as a Director Training and Medical Workforce Executive, I know how important it is to provide support and guidance, particularly in the first few weeks. I reached out to other junior doctors on reddit on the /r/ausjdocs/ community to share essential tips to help you navigate this critical phase of your career.
Intern Doctors Australia Tip 1. It’s OK to say I Don’t Know.
There is general agreement that this tip is “the most important”.
As C2-H6-E puts it:
Learning to say “I don’t know” is a skill. You should practice saying it to your seniors, patients, nursing staff, etc. It’s about being a safe practitioner and recognizing your limitations.
No one is going to be critical of you if you say, “I don’t know”. But they may be unhappy if you stay silent and something bad happens.
If you are not aware of the concept of Impostor Syndrome. Here’s a quick precis.
Impostor syndrome is a common phenomenon in the medical field and can have detrimental effects. It refers to the persistent belief that one is not competent or deserving of their achievements, leading to self-doubt and anxiety. This mindset can be dangerous as it may hinder the ability to seek help, ask questions, and admit when one doesn’t know something. It is crucial for intern doctors to acknowledge and address impostor syndrome to ensure patient safety and personal growth.
If you are worried about saying “I don’t know” a lot. Try adding the following seven extra words
“I don’t know. But I will find out for you.”
Intern Doctors Australia Tip 2. Adapting to Hospital Work
Nothing can prepare you absolutely for your first few days and weeks working as an Intern.
Just know that you will be surprisingly tired at the end of each day.
I remember the Term 1 Intern check-ins I would conduct with Interns. They would often arrive to my office looking physically exhausted and slump in the chair.
It’s primarily a mental exhaustion as you will be spending lots of your time trying to take in new or adapt existing knowledge. But walking the corridors of a big hospital can also be physically exhausting. There is the cognitive challenge of having to think through every thing you are doing because you are doing lots of things for the first time.
And then there is the overtime and night work!!
As Doc_Quin explains, your Intern work will likely juxtapose with a lot of administrative tasks during the day. Something that your medical school experience is likely to have only partially prepared you for; and then the stress of having to make clinical judgements and decisions after hours.
Adapting to Hospital Culture
Every hospital has its unique culture and dynamics. Observe, learn, and adapt to these nuances. Being a team player and understanding the hierarchy will help you navigate through your intern year more smoothly.
Your reputation as a team member is of utmost importance as an Intern. You will be rotating through hospital units where the rest of the staff are more permanent fixtures. You are joining their team. The Interns of the hospital are frequently discussed by these teams, especially the ones who have unfortunately developed a bad reputation.
Our reddit advisors suggest that you try to be “reliable”, “be nice” and “be honest” – the golden rule again.
Intern Doctors Australia Tip 3. Time to Understand the Australian Healthcare System
Generally, you don’t get taught a lot in medical school about how the health care system actually operates.
Australia’s healthcare landscape is dynamic and multifaceted, encompassing public and private sectors. Familiarize yourself with hospital protocols, healthcare policies, and patient rights. Remember, your role is crucial in this ecosystem, and understanding it deeply will help you integrate faster and perform better.
Now is the time to start showing an interest, as you are now fully vested in it.
Find out about how Medicare works, and in particular, provider numbers and referrals.
Learn about the PBS system and how medications are prescribed. Try not to be a doctor who sends a patient home on a medication they and their GP cannot actually access outside of the hospital.
What is this thing called Clinical Governance? What happens when I put in a RiskMan?
By being more situationally aware of how the hospital operates and decisions are made you are not just more likely to be in a position to influence decisions but likely to find opportunities to expand on your resume to enhance your prospects for future job applications around the corner – “did that patient safety officer say they had an audit they needed a hand with?”
Intern Doctors Australia Tip 4. Effective Communication Skills.
Communication as an Intern goes beyond patient interactions. It’s about effectively liaising with colleagues, nurses, and other healthcare professionals. Be clear, concise, and compassionate in your communication. Remember, empathy is key when dealing with patients and their families, especially in stressful situations.
Probably the most stressful communication task for an Intern is the Specialty Consult request. Here’s a bit of advice from one of our Redditors on how to tackle this part of the job.
Intern Doctors Australia Tip 5. Time Management and Organization
Intern years are known for their hectic schedules. Prioritize your tasks, learn to say no when necessary, and organize your schedule efficiently. Keeping a balance between your professional responsibilities and personal life is crucial for long-term success and well-being.
Intern Doctors Australia Tip 6. Developing Clinical Competence
As has already been highlighted, no one expects you as an Intern to be a clinical expert. It’s enough to develop your practical skills and focus on your awareness in terms of gaps in knowledge.
Hands-on experience is your best teacher. Take every opportunity to learn and refine your clinical skills. Seek feedback constructively and don’t avoid challenging situations – they are often the best learning opportunities.
There are plenty of resources to guide you in your hospital work. Here are some suggestions from our Redditors.
Intern Doctors Australia Tip 7. Maintaining Work-Life Balance
It’s easy to get overwhelmed in your first year. Remember to take care of your mental and physical health. Find hobbies or activities outside work that help you relax and recharge.
Don’t get carried away at work and be a martyr. Remember to take your breaks and find times to decompress and debrief.
Seeking Support and Mentorship
Don’t hesitate to seek support. Find a mentor who can guide you through the challenges of your first year. A supportive network can provide invaluable advice, emotional support, and career guidance.
Preparing for Future Career Steps
Think about your career trajectory early. Explore different specialties, talk to senior doctors, and plan your steps post-internship. Setting clear goals will give you a direction and help you stay motivated.
Your intern year in Australia is just the beginning of a rewarding journey in medicine. Embrace the challenges, stay curious, and strive for excellence but be okay with good some of the time. Remember, this year will shape you not just as a doctor but as a lifelong learner in the field of healthcare.
How much will I get paid as an Intern?
Base Salary is around $80,000 pa but varies by jurisdiction and will be bumped up by overtime. You can read this post for a comprehensive break down.
Is it possible to fail Internship and what happens if I do?
Every year, a small handful of interns require some extra time to complete their internship requirements. This can be for many reasons, including personal illness, family circumstances or the stress of the role.
The good news is the vast majority of intern doctors complete their internship within the year and the rest only normally require another term or at the most extreme a couple of terms.
Whist it is technically possible to not progress from internship this is a rarity. The Medical Board permits you up to 3 years’ time to complete so you should not be worried about this.