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Intern Diary Learning Curve

Tuesday February 9, 2021

Dr Mudra Shah

Dr Mudra Shah writes a letter to her younger self and shares some important lessons

Dear Me,

I am writing to you from the future, on your first day of internship. I know you are feeling a mixture of nervous jitters and excitement, with intermittent episodes of sheer panic. I want you to know that you are about to start one of the best years of your life – as a junior doctor working at one of the finest tertiary hospitals in WA, or as you’ll soon call it, Charlies!

This year will bring with it some unique challenges and to help you face these, I’ve created a list of 10 lessons:

  1. Once you start work, most people will refer to you as “Dr Shah” or “Doc” and it never stops feeling weird. You will also realise that sometimes people do this because it’s easier than pronouncing your name correctly and that’s okay.
  2. You are no longer a medical student (woo!). People will expect things from you – but not too much! Use this opportunity to learn about whatever you want, pick up a hobby or finally start reading! Don’t worry – you still get free food, and it still brings the same level of joy to your (now) working day.
  3. Something called Coronavirus or COVID-19 will cause a pandemic and completely change life as you know it. Patients will stop coming to hospitals, you will very quickly become a key source of information on health for your family and friends and words like “restrictions”, “PPE”, “hand hygiene” and “N-95 mask” will take on a new meaning. The best thing you can do is stay calm, informed and learn to advocate for the health of your patients.
  4. Learn how to use a fax machine.
  5. You will be asked to review sick patients and sometimes it will be scary. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or escalate to a senior. Trust yourself and your gut feeling; it has developed over seven years of observing medical patients and it’s usually not wrong. Remember, the patient always comes first.
  6. You will observe some great medicine, and at times, some not-so-great medicine. Take away the good points and start applying them to your clinical practice – you will be amazed at how much this affects patient care.
  7. Invest in some good-quality shoes – your feet (and knees) will thank you.
  8. Strive to be a decent human being to other staff, including doctors, allied health and admin. Remember, everyone is busy and working towards the same end goal – providing excellent patient care.
  9. Teach! Apply your teaching-on-the-run skills to teach students and/or juniors whenever/wherever possible. Teaching is an integral part of being a doctor and the only way to get better is to practise. Trust me, it will bring you joy.
  10. Last but not least, look after yourself and your colleagues. It is always okay to take a toilet break, drink some water or eat your lunch. Maintain and/or build a support group, talk to someone if you’re having a difficult day and don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues how they’re feeling/coping if they look stressed.

Best of luck!

Madra