web analytics

A clinician wearing the corporate hat for the first time (By Ling Tan)

By Ling Tan

1st Year Management Intern

A clinician wearing the corporate hat for the first time

For my second internship placement, I was assigned to Strategy and Planning at Barwon Health, a tertiary-level public hospital in regional Victoria. Stepping into this rotation, I found myself in uncharted waters and was out of my comfort zone on many levels, to say the least. Yet, not an ounce of regret crossed my mind. Instead, this placement offered an excellent learning opportunity for an intern like me, transitioning from clinical practice to health service management. I have summarised my learnings in three points below.

Listen and learn

Having previously worked as a community-based clinician, I had to familiarise myself with the acute setting. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to attend monthly directorate performance meetings where my role was to provide secretariat support. By tuning into discussions at those meetings, I quickly learned:

  • A new set of jargon—National Weighted Activity Unit (NWAU), separations, and length of stay (LOS) are just a few examples.
  • The vast number of departments and complex layers of governance that exist in a hospital compared to a community health service.
  • The vital roles and functions of each unit, the interplay between departments, and key performance indicators that contribute to a high-performing hospital.

Do your research and get to know the subject matter expert (well)

My primary responsibility was to lead the development of an organisational strategy for environmental sustainability—an area that is well and truly beyond my clinical expertise. To expedite my learning in this domain, I took a deep dive into key environmental issues within the healthcare sector through extensive reading and participating in relevant webinars and workshops. Aside from self-directed learning, what proved even more helpful was the close professional relationship that I had established with the Environmental Sustainability Manager. The manager served as the technical “source of truth,” a critical support when tasked with writing a strategy on a topic that I initially knew very little about. Through working closely with the manager, I have developed a greater understanding of the profound impacts of climate change on health services and vice versa.

Your placement supervisor and ACHSM mentor are valuable resources

As the project lead, I had to execute tasks that I had never done before in my former roles. From executive stakeholder engagement to writing the strategy itself, I was a beginner all over again. However, I was not thrown into the deep end alone. My placement supervisor was a great resource, coaching me week in and week out. From him, I learned how to:

  • navigate the hierarchy in the hospital and effectively engage with senior and executive stakeholders
  • facilitate productive dialogues to elicit stakeholder feedback to inform the strategy
  • translate complex ideas and write them succinctly in corporate documents.

I also scheduled regular catch-ups with my ACHSM mentor throughout the placement. My mentor served as a great sounding board, listening to my concerns and offering her perspectives. Having another person to guide and cheer you on as you navigate a new professional environment goes a long way.

Writing this blog post at the conclusion of my project, I can proudly say that the draft strategy has received positive feedback from the Chief Executive and relevant stakeholders and is now awaiting final endorsement by the Board. This achievement would not have been possible without the people who consistently supported me in reaching the finish line. I hope that my experience offers valuable insights and serves as encouragement for fellow interns who find themselves navigating unfamiliar territories. As the saying goes, there is indeed a light at the end of the tunnel.

Disclaimer: Views are those of individual authors and not those of ACHSM or management intern’s employers