THE 2021 interns have already distinguished themselves; completing final year medical school in 2020 would have been a challenge indeed. Even though they have earned gold stars for their 2020 achievements, work now starts for real.

Extending the tradition of the past 3 years, I share some tips for our medical neophytes, in order to make their paths less bumpy.

The now principle

As one of my registrars says, “we are expected to do more and more with less and less!” And what appears to be most “less and less” in supply is time.

While it is not always possible, deal with tasks and problems as they arise, rather than letting them snowball and accumulate.


If you had to summarise the job of an intern in one word, it would be “help”. First and foremost, you’re there to help the patients under your care. You help your clinical team optimise patient care, workloads, workflow and communication. You help patients’ families. You help medical students.

But please note you too can, and should, request help when you need help. Don’t be afraid to ask.

Social media

Be very, very careful. If you can do without it, think seriously about this option.

If you feel that you cannot live without it, be mindful of the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency guidelines and guidelines set by your state or territory health departments.

Social mores, humour, fashion and politics all vary over time. Once you post it, it is usually there for good, or retrievable for good. Therefore, it may be best not to post it at all.

Expand your horizons

You have embarked on one of the most interesting and rewarding professions; just look at how many apply for medical school each year.

While you may have your eyes already set on a particular specialty or job, as an intern you can afford to keep an open mind and expand your horizons.

Don’t bemoan a term you did not preference. Don’t decline an offer to participate in a research project. Don’t freak out if you need to do a term in a regional or rural hospital.

Regardless of whether you are an intern or an emeritus professor, every day on the job and every different workplace offers new lessons and an enrichment of your clinical expertise.


Sharing improves your helping. Share your clinical findings with the patient, nurses and your medical colleagues. Share your correspondence with the patient’s GP and other relevant specialists.


Even though it may be the furthest thing from your mind after the slog of medical school, don’t fall out of the habit of studying.

The internship is a year unlikely to be one of sitting exams; however, exams and assessments shall be waiting for you in one or two years from now.

Try to keep up to date as best you can. Quarantine some time a few times per month to do so.

Stay safe and take care

COVID-19 has sharpened our awareness but it’s not the only thing to protect against.

Infectious diseases, violent patients, angry relatives, difficult colleagues, needles, radiation and surgical instruments are just some of the safety issues that will surround you this year and moving forward.


Love your patients. Love your work. And so you should, given how hard you worked to get here.

The rest will fall into place. Wishing you a wonderful career!

Dr Aniello Iannuzzi is a Visiting Medical Officer at Coonabarabran District Hospital, a GP, and a Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Sydney and University of New England. He is Chair of the Australian Doctors’ Federation.




The statements or opinions expressed in this article reflect the views of the authors and do not represent the official policy of the AMA, the MJA or InSight+ unless so stated.

2 thoughts on “Share, learn and love: a guide for 2021 interns

  1. Ex Doctor says:

    Spot on Aniello. I once advised a gathering of new graduates to “love your patients”. They had just received a stern lecture from the Medical Board about boundaries. My remark was greeted with gales of nervous laughter.

  2. Andrew Baird says:

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom and insight. Excellent advice. Worth revisiting at any stage in a career.

    Just one more thing. Think about getting a GP. And get to know your GP before you need to know your GP.

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