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On the cusp of starting internship, Dr Albert Vu takes a moment to reflect on life as a med student and the challenges in front of him.
They say you learn as much as you can while you are young since life becomes too busy later. To a final year medical student, that roughly translates to read Marshall and Ruedy’s On Call while you can, since those patients discharge summaries aren’t going to write themselves.
As one of over a thousand graduates looking forward to commencing internship in NSW this year, the last few weeks of 2018 offered a chance to reflect upon the journey of the past few years as a student. That journey has taken us from the lecture theatres and anatomy labs to the hospital wards and operating theatres. I think we all remember our first day on the wards as a student. For me, it was marked by mixed feelings of excitement, anticipation and privilege to see medical theory come to life which quickly made way for a sobering realisation of how much there was yet to learn. There will no doubt be a sense of déjà vu on the first day of internship – let’s hope without breaking sterile field twice in one day.
For many of us, an integral part of that journey has been involvement with one of the countless student societies that colour university life. I was humbled to be elected to the executive body of the NSW Medical Students’ Council (NSWMSC) as Treasurer. As medicine continues to grow, we are welcoming a broader range of students into the profession. My involvement with NSWMSC and other student societies gave me a chance to meet like-minded individuals. If I were to give one piece of advice to medical students starting out it would be to throw your hat in the ring and get involved in societies and causes that you are passionate about.
Despite medical schools increasingly shifting their attention to focus on workplace readiness, there will always be an element of the unknown when transitioning from being a student to a member of the workforce. As a future intern, I often worry that my inexperience will somehow let the team down. Worse still, what if my shortcomings are the cause for harm to patients? These doubts when it comes to workplace readiness are not unique to our profession. However, it is important to recognise that being asked to shoulder a high burden of responsibility with limited experience results in undue stress
The human consequences of our work make the predicament of a junior doctor unique and warrants appropriate support structures.
Internship represents an amazing opportunity if well managed. We are paid to learn and continue doing what we love whilst making a difference in people’s lives. Our colleagues with whom we will be privileged to work alongside everyday embody vast amounts of knowledge and experience from which we can learn. Unfortunately, lived experience is often incongruent with this ideal, leading to junior doctors becoming disillusioned with their work and workplace. A supportive work environment can help realise this vision of internship as a program that prioritises the wellbeing of junior doctors and patients alike. Unlocking the full potential of new graduates will benefit both the hospital system and the young doctors that represent its future. It may be easy to forget, but every doctor was once an intern. That means everyone in our profession understands the demands placed on interns because at one point or another we were all here ourselves. That should be a comforting fact to all new interns; to know your colleagues and superiors have gone through the challenges that you face and that support is never far from hand.
As is often said, life will only get busier from here. Therefore, it is important for my colleagues to take stock and recognise how far we have come; to celebrate past victories and look forward to the journey that lies ahead.
Contributed by Albert Vu
Intern Westmead Hospital