My Study Journey From Graduate to MR and As assist doctor – My Sydney Story
Last week marked my final week of part-time work here in Sydney. The culture of working part-time while studying at university was one of the things that drew me to Australia. I immediately identified that I wanted to work in the health sector – in any capacity – to learn about the workings of the Australian Health System from the inside and understand the differences between health systems here and back home in India.
I worked as a medical receptionist and doctor’s assistant in a general practice. On my first day of training – Mary, my supervisor asked a patient for her Medicare and Pensioner cards so she could show me what they looked like. The patient was puzzled! “You don’t know what a Medicare card looks like?!”. “We don’t have Medicare back in my home country”, I said.
In the last one and a half years, this job gave me an insight into the Australian Health System. I took on the additional roles of sterilization and vaccine management. I assisted the practice as we went through accreditation against RACGP standards working closely with Central and Eastern Sydney Public Health Network.
My takeaways from this job are both professional and personal. Professionally, I have seen that universal health coverage works. The ease with which patients access health care without worrying about out-of-pocket costs was starkly different from the scenario in India. Another key takeaway from my experience has been the importance of coordinating care. While it has not been perfected yet, I am aware that coordinating care between GPs, specialists and allied health practitioners can be the difference between good and poor patient satisfaction. I also noticed that technology has a vital part to play in the health system and can be integrated into almost every aspect of health care to ease delivery. Constant innovation in health care is paving the way forward. Data has become an integral part of the health ecosystem and it begins with EMRs in primary care.
Personally, the job taught me life-skills I couldn’t have gained unless I had this experience. The most important one being the culture of “the dignity of labor”. In Australia, in my experience, I was never treated differently than the doctors who practice at the clinic. We all ate and drank from the same pantry. I didn’t have to call anyone “sir” or “ma’am”. That was strange to me, at first. To call my colleagues who were old enough to be my mother or grandmother by their name! I came to cherish this work culture where everyone is treated equally. Irrespective of your level of education, your race, how old you are, what job you do or how much money you make. In fact, when I went back to India, my grandmother would say “you became a doctor and now you work as a receptionist”, and I would simply reply, “I really like my job nanny, Wahan Kisi Ko Koi farak nahi padta ki aap kya Karte ho (it doesn’t matter to people what kind of job you do).
As a student working part-time, I learned to manage my time. I learned to go to work, go to class, do household chores and my assignments all on the same day. That was something I had never done before! The days felt long, but productive. I learned to make a budget, manage my expenses and save money. I learned to manage people (polite AND angry patients) and not be afraid to be proactive, pitch new ideas and take on new responsibilities. It was truly an experience I will cherish for a lifetime.
As I return home to India, I take with me not only a master’s degree, both cultural and personal experiences I would not have gotten elsewhere. As I always say, it’s time to move on – to bigger and better things – Onwards and Upwards!
Dr. Nikita Bathla, Graduate Student in SPHCM (School of Public Health and Community Medicine) UNSW