Intern Diary: The fundamental privileges of “doctoring” | AMA (WA)


Intern Diary: The fundamental privileges of “doctoring”

Friday September 10, 2021

Dr Breanna Hollow

As we near the end of our third intern term, I reflect on all that has changed over the last six months.

Indeed, I no longer need to triple-check the dose of metoclopramide or go through the hospital switchboard to reach medical imaging or specimen reception.

The things that have remained the same, however, perhaps make for a more poignant discussion.

I still look over my shoulder when someone calls me doctor. I most definitely still enjoy the ease of scrubs (or “work pajamas,” as they’re more lovingly known) and hospital food is as average as ever (as I’m often reminded).

However, some apparent constants warrant further conversation.

I regularly witness examples of exceptionally good and exceptionally poor leadership.  Bosses who support, encourage and nurture junior staff and, unfortunately, some who foster fear, competition and unsustainable work environments.

Overtime can easily become the expected standard and, amidst our increasingly busy hospitals, the pressure to move patients to other departments, step-down services or rehab facilities can be felt by all.

It goes without saying that, as the most junior member of the medical team, one can find oneself on the receiving end of system-borne frustrations in this ever-stretched system. Be they from patients aggravated by emergency department wait times or nursing staff frustrated by understaffed departments, the relative proximity and availability of junior staff can result in us dealing with our fair share of daily flak.

However, in my 28th week of internship, just as in my first week, the positive fundamentals remain true. Each day, by nature of this same availability and proximity that makes junior staff a potential target for the airing of grievances, so too does it make us the trusted ear and the confidant.

In this system of ever-growing lists of outstanding discharge summaries, it is true that I do not amputate limbs, run resuscitations or do any of the “doctoring” my non-medical friends suppose I do.

However, the great privilege I felt in week one feels as significant, or perhaps even more so, in week 28. The days where I’m beckoned back after the ward round by a palliating patient who wants someone to divulge their fear of death to; the days where I garner that extra piece of pertinent medical history from a young woman too embarrassed to explain it to anyone else – these are the days I remember why I chose to become a doctor. The constant positive that dwarfs the seemingly unchanging negatives of a fractured system. Every day I go to work as an intern, and in some small, unglamorous and often unseen way, I play a part in improving the lives of others.


Dr Breanna Hollow

Intern, Fiona Stanley Hospital