My six months of Dr-ing

It’s been over 6 months since I walked across the stage at St Lucia and was awarded my Doctor of Medicine. It’s been a fun (if busy!) transition from student to Intern, and I’m here to share a few things to consider as you prepare to make the jump too!

You’ll feel overwhelmed in the beginning.

People will call you ‘doctor’ and you’ll be like ‘what? who, me?’ You will feel overwhelmed and wish you could say you’re ‘just the med student’ again. You do eventually start to feel more comfortable. Ask all the questions you have. Ask people why and how they’re making the decisions they are. Any Junior House Officers you work with are your best resource – they’re doing the same job as you, just with more experience! And don’t feel bad about all the questions; one boss gave me specific feedback that they liked how if I wasn’t sure about something I asked and asked until I understood.

Meal prep during busy rotations.

You’ll be busy. Plan accordingly.

Use some of the time between graduation and starting work to think about what you’ll outsource if you’re too busy. Many interns find that they’re doing a bunch of paid overtime and choose to hire a cleaner or use a meal prep service during busy rotations. If you want to wait and see how you go, have a game plan for how you’ll cope if you’re feeling more time-poor than cash-poor! Other options include things like meal-prepping or trying to minimise responsibilities over a busy period. You do you, but make sure you’ve really given it some thought before you go into a rotation of nights or ward call and have no time to sort out your day-to-day tasks.

You’re finally getting paid!

On that note, remember you’re a grown up now getting a real pay-check – maybe even for the first time! Look into all that fancy stuff like salary packaging, superannuation and tax so that you know your rights and responsibilities. Between graduating and starting work is a great time to do this delightful piece of adulting. Remember that you’re entitled to claim overtime for the hours you work and it can become a medicolegal issue if you don’t. For example, you were supposed to leave at 4pm, and yet there’s a note you wrote at 7pm… and now there’s an issue with that patient… Oh no! Always speak to someone if you’re working overtime and feel like you can’t claim it – you need to keep yourself, the patients and the hospital safe.

You’ll have good days… and not so good days. Build your support squad.

There will be days where you get to deliver good news to someone, or send home a patient who has been in hospital for a long time. You’ll get your first arterial blood gas or a cannula that everyone else missed and feel on top of the world. There will be days when patients deteriorate and you cannot get those bloods and you feel like you don’t know anything at all. Tuck away the good memories to help balance the hard days, and make sure you have people you can decompress with when you’re having a hard time. See if your hospital has a junior doctor social club or peer mentoring program.

Tuck away the good memories to help balance the hard days.

There will be things that scare you. You’ll get through them.

I was terrified for my first run of ward call. I called my fellow ward call intern for advice when I needed it and we celebrated finishing the seven evenings by demolishing a bag of chocolate at midnight. I called the registrar whenever I felt out of my depth. I survived, and so did all of my patients. I was even more terrified for my compulsory surgical term, because I know I don’t enjoy surgery. I’m just about to finish it, and even though I still don’t want to be a surgeon, I’ve learned a lot and enjoyed the company of the colleagues I shared the experience with. You’ll be amazed at what you can do when you need to.

There’s more to life than work.

Build habits you want to keep during your junior doctor years.

One of the best things you can do during med school is build some of the habits you want to keep during your junior doctor years. I have a regular exercise routine because I built it up during med school; I think it would have been much harder to start one now! I always enjoyed creative hobbies through med school, and I’ve started taking an instant photo on every day I’m not at work – it pushes me to be creative and to get out and do new things! Whether it’s something active, creative or social, remember to prioritise the things outside of work that keep you happy, healthy and well-rounded!


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