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>>>Saying YES to the unknown | Intern ballot experience

Saying YES to the unknown | Intern ballot experience

Dr Claudia Collins | Rural Generalist Training Advisor

Applying for an intern position as a final year medical student is a big milestone, it’s the first major step in your new career. All the emotions come into play – you are excited about your future, yet nervous for the change and journey ahead.

When I applied for my intern position with the Queensland Rural Generalist Pathway (QRGP), I received the call that I had been successful, but there was a BUT… I had been placed into the ballot and had been allocated my second to last preference. I was in a state of shock. I missed out on the locations where I had existing connections to friends, family, or the traditional university footprint. I had an internal battle around whether to remain in a state of despair, or simply say “yes” to the new experience and head into the unknown.

I decided to give it a go (even though I nearly thew up in the hospital car park on my first day of internship). It took all my might to walk through the front doors of the hospital. I felt lost, alone, and out of my depth. I didn’t have any connections to hang onto and pull myself forwards with.

Turns out that what I thought was going to be the worst experience of my life and something I had to endure (as dramatic as that sounds), would be the BEST thing that could have ever happened to me – both personally and professionally.

The best advice I could ever give is say “YES” and just walk through that front door! Nothing is as scary as it seems once you’ve taken that first step!

QRGP trainee Dr Moses Mpusetsang commenced as a QRGP intern in 2023 after being balloted. “I felt very frustrated that I couldn’t get the hospital that I badly wanted at the time. I received my second preference hospital and I didn’t even know where it was! I had to look it up online and learn a few things, including schools for my children”.

After the initial ballot shock passed, Moses is happy to report that he has enjoyed his intern year and is happy to continue at his current training hospital for his Junior House Officer (JHO) year. “Turns out that I had the best experience. The junior doctors are very well supported. Depending on which rotation you are doing, you may have direct supervision from consultants, Registrars, or other more senior colleagues. In my experience, all the Senior Medical Officers (SMOs) were approachable and helped build my knowledge and confidence. The nursing and allied health teams were great to work with and built a friendly atmosphere. In essence, I was happy to stay on and keep training there. Queensland Health also help me financially to relocate, and it was easy to find good schools for my children.”

In my personal experience, making connections is what got me through the initial distress of being balloted. It helped me find my feet to navigate my first year in the hospital system as an intern. The connections I made supported my professional learning, my emotional and social wellbeing, my physical and mental health. They helped me not only to survive, but to thrive, and become a team player. Some of the friends I made in my intern year, are now my best friends.

There are many ways to make meaningful connections and establish yourself in a new place. You spend a lot of time at the hospital, but that doesn’t have to be a negative thing that prevents you from establishing yourself in a new place.

  • Colleagues – Get to know your fellow interns and develop some bonds and camaraderie. Get around some junior doctors who have recently been in your shoes and can offer invaluable advice based on their own experiences. Get to know the staff in other departments such as nursing, allied health, and administration. This will help build a positive work environment where you enjoy going to work each day.
  • Medical Education Unit (MEU) – Develop bonds with the MEU staff. They can facilitate connections and support your professional aspirations, interests, and goals. They are there to support junior doctors, even if it’s a pastoral care chat with a cup of tea, and know your role stressors more than you do! Their local connection is invaluable and backs up the support from your Rural Generalist Training Advisor (RGTA).
  • RGTA and the QRGP team – You are one call away from accessing the support of the entire QRGP team. Your dedicated RGTA has walked in your shoes and has a career’s worth of experience and advice at your disposal. They are there to support you and your journey, the highs and the lows.
  • Hospital social events – Attend the hospital welcome and social events to meet new people. I joined the hospital social club and said “yes” to a lot of things (even things I would normally say no to) like camping on days off, karaoke nights, trivia Tuesdays, after work drinks, and joining the annual curry night Emergency Department fundraiser.
  • Local community – If you are in a new town, check out local community events where you can meet some locals and get a feel of the community you are now serving. Making a connection with your local barista can mean a lot on a rough day.

The ballot process can create unexpected challenges, and yes, some people don’t have the same positive experience as Moses and me. I did learn through my experience that I have the skillsets and fortitude to change my circumstances if I need to as well. Saying “yes” now doesn’t mean saying “yes” to forever. Taking that first step in a new direction doesn’t mean you are stuck to that path indefinitely; you can navigate your own journey as we all take twists and turns to get to our final destination. The connections you make as you go along can help you on that lifelong career journey. Medicine is a close-knit community, and rural medicine even more so – you never know when you will next run into someone or need to phone a friend or ask for a favour.

Moses offers some words of advice to medical students who are applying for a QRGP intern position. “If you don’t get your first choice, it’s not the end of the world. You have the potential to turn any experience into whatever you want it to be. Wherever you go, your greatest weapon is the mindset of a team player and you will fit anywhere or conquer whatever comes your way. As I write this, in retrospect, I don’t even know why I was frustrated in the first place. I have worked in many hospitals in Australia before medical school (former Radiographer), and generally the culture is all quite similar – very friendly”.

You can find out more about the QRGP intern application process here.


Mar 7th 2024| Blog, |