Dr John Shenoda has reached the midpoint of his intern year. Having completed his paediatrics and emergency medicine rotations at Robina and Gold Coast University Hospitals, he’s currently doing his general medicine rotation, with psychiatry and surgery to come. Here he shares his experience so far, alongside providing tips for navigating the first half of your intern year.
John’s biggest takeaways at his mid-year point
- Your attitude determines your altitude
“It’s not really about how capable you perceive yourself to be, it’s about your attitude towards your work. Be always willing to learn and upskill, but also open to admit to – and learn from – your mistakes.”
- Take the time to enjoy the rewarding parts
“The most rewarding part of my intern year so far is the privilege of my patient interactions. When I have a meaningful interaction with someone where I feel like I’ve made a difference to their healthcare – even if it’s just convincing them to follow up with their GP – that really makes my day.”
- Recognise the relationship between self-care and patient care
“If you’re sleep deprived and not eating well, it’s difficult to provide optimal care for your patients. It’s so important to pay attention to looking after yourself. ”
- Maintain your hobbies & social connections
“I knew my intern year would be full on so I made the decision to focus on maintaining my hobbies from medical school, as well as getting to know my new fellow interns. We’ve even set up a Facebook group for weekend activities on the Gold Coast. We’ve been hiking, indoor rock climbing and ice skating so far.”
- Use your hospital supports
“There are plenty of hard copy and online supports you can utilise, like the Australian Medicines Handbook or the Life in the Fast Lane website for your ED rotation. But you should also rely on the medical, nursing and allied health staff around you. Many have been working much longer than you, so are invaluable sources of support. It’s vital to ask for their help when you’re unsure.”
- Treat your patients and colleagues as if they’re family
“When I was doing my emergency medicine rotation, there was a version of the ‘Ten Commandments of Emergency Medicine’ on the wall. It made a really strong impression on me – point nine in particular. It was about treating others, including your colleagues, as you would your family. It’s good to remember to give everyone, not just patients, the same amount of respect as you do your family, especially on those bad days when you’re really stressed and may not communicate as nicely as you normally would.”
- Realise the importance of task prioritisation
“Working in a busy hospital, there’s always tasks to be done, but not all of them have to be done immediately. It’s a good practice to collate non-urgent jobs as you go, and you can get to them later when things slow down.”
- Master your handover
“After my first month, I gained a real appreciation for the importance of good communication. If you handover properly to the night team, they can return the favour to the morning team and so it goes on.”
“I personally struggled a little with recognising which details are most important when handing over to the different specialties, especially as some teams want to know everything, while others just want the main clinical findings relevant to their field. The key to succeeding is knowing your patients well, and then just repeat the process over and over again until you’re comfortable. You’ll become more skilled at it as you go.”
Insider info and tips for specific rotations
“Rapport is very important. Before you try to take a child’s history, introduce yourself and get to know them a little. Find out what their hobbies are and if they’re in school, what their favourite subjects are. Making physical examinations an interactive game really helps.”
“Don’t be afraid to ask questions, as that’s one of the quickest and best ways to learn. You’ll work with a variety of medical, nursing and allied health teams in a holistic environment, and sometimes the number of patients you see will be really high. But this has the benefit of exposing you to a broad spectrum of presentations which allows you to upskill quickly, learn how to prioritise your workload, as well as increase your efficiency.”
“You’ll be given great guidance on what to do by your seniors during your shifts, and will soon realise the importance of good documentation and checking patients’ medical backgrounds. But I also highly recommend reading the full version of the Ten Commandments of Emergency Medicine.”
On picking his specialty – rural general practice
John recently secured a GP training place on the AGPT rural pathway.
“GP was always my top pick. I think some medical students do themselves a disservice by not considering or looking into GP training. When I took the time to look into it, I was amazed by the many exciting and diverse opportunities it provides,” he says.
“Some people think a GP is someone who just stays in one room and does referrals, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. You can tailor your career through your procedural and non-procedural interests. You can also work in a multitude of different settings while still being exposed to a broad variety of medicine, and caring for patients across all demographics,” he says.
John says he ‘could talk all day’ about why he picked GP, crediting much of his choice to the GP educators he had as a medical student.
“I really looked up to and admired them. They were so passionate about passing down clinical skills to the future generation of doctors. One had a strong interest in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, and really inspired me with his work at Aboriginal Medical Services (AMS). It gave me a different perspective on medicine by looking into the social determinants of health, and their influence on health outcomes,” he says.
John is keen to ensure his GP training experience is as broad as possible. This will hopefully involve working at an AMS.
“As a GP, your door is open to everyone. It’s very important for us to be aware of that and recognise the unique challenges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face. Their connection to their culture, land and history is something that affects healthcare today and will continue to,” he says.