Alumnus Dr Christopher Hardy's address to 2020 medical graduates

Congratulations Class of 2020!!! Not only have you graduated university, but through a global pandemic as well. The fact that you are here today is a testament to your dedication, hard work, and adaptability in times of uncertainty; all factors that will make you the amazing clinicians and people  that I am sure you are and will continue to be.

This is an interesting time for me to be talking with all of you. The glow of graduation has worn off, and the realities of working have set in. You have completed your first rotations, with all the trials, tribulations, emotions, and experiences that come with this. Some of you may be feeling energised and excited, others exhausted, others still stressed and worried for the future. All of these feelings are valid, and no matter how your first rotation went, or how your first year goes, please remember that you are not alone. Joining the Monash Alumni means that you join over 420,000 graduates in over 160 different countries, and with this comes the benefits of a global community that will support you and encourage you to thrive. If you haven’t already, please remember to activate your Alumni Portal and get the ball rolling on accessing these incredible benefits.

I have been asked to give you all some tips and tricks on how to not only survive your intern year, but thrive. I am not going to patronise you all and pretend that I know everything; I myself have only just started my residency. However, I do have a few things that helped me to no end throughout my intern year and through my residency so far.

1. Never underestimate the power of a cup of tea.

There are two parts to this:

i. If you have to have a difficult conversation with a family member or patient, one that might evolve into tears or yelling, a cup of tea can make things better. I cannot tell you how many code greys I have avoided with family by first introducing myself and then asking how they like their coffee/tea. It disarms people and makes you more human to them, meaning that they know that you only want what is best and truly care. This is not always possible in an incredibly busy ward or department, but always give it a go.

ii. You also need to have time for yourself. A 5-10 minute cuppa during an awful shift where nothing is going right can really make a difference. In most cases, the urgent things that are making you stressed (referrals, bloods, medication reviews, phone calls) can all be put off for a couple of minutes. During this time you might even realise that the reason you were feeling so stressed or rushed is that you needed the toilet, or were dehydrated, or were a bit hungry.

2. Never annoy the nurses, allied health, or administration staff.

It goes without saying that you should be kind and courteous to everyone in the workplace, but I know that my life has been saved multiple times by eagle-eyed nurses and pharmacists, or referrals made easier by fantastic ward clarks. Everyone has something to bring to the table and we need to respect that our role as doctors is not the only important role there is.

3. Always listen to someone who wants to teach you something.

Not only doctors on your team, but those you refer to and encounter on your travels. It is also important to remember that everyone has something that they can teach you. I know of nurses who could cannulate a rock, and physiotherapists who can pick a subtle stroke from just a simple exam. Most people love to teach and love to be appreciated for it.

4. Know your worth.

You are a member of the treating team. Whilst junior, you deserve the same respect as anyone else in the team. Don’t put up with bullying or harassment just because the person you are talking to is more senior. You are valued, important, and above all essential to the continued care of your patients. Know your worth!

5. Finally, be the type of doctor that you want looking after you, your family, and your loved ones.

This is perhaps the most important point. As someone who’s had extended interactions with the medical community outside of my job, you cannot underestimate how amazing the smallest gestures of kindness and compassion can be. Be thoughtful, be empathetic, be genuine, careful and patient. It can be hard to remember that we are dealing with people on the worst days of their lives, and what might seem insignificant to us might also be the thing that makes the world of difference to your patients.

You guys are all amazing, and congratulations on reaching this point. May your future careers be filled with happiness, fulfilment, love, and above all fun.

Thank you.