NSW Management Interns' Blog

Blog posts by NSW Management Interns of the Australasian College of Health Service Management. Views are those of the individual authors and not those of ACHSM or management interns’ host organisations or employers.

Oscar Chaffey
Oscar Chaffey

ACHSM blog

Lessons learnt along the way

Author: Katie Lau

Date: 23 March, 2018

On the brink of entering the next quarter of life, with a slighter slower metabolism and decreased resilience to fitness, it was with excitement that compelled me to reflect on my first year in the health management internship programme. I thought about what I could write, could it be the endless learnings that I had the privilege of being exposed to? Trends in healthcare? Big data? No. I resolved that I’d leave that up to the subject matter experts that are in abundance in the college, but perhaps what I could offer was my two cents on what I wish I could tell myself, a year ago today. I knew the programme would teach me a lot in terms of the qualities needed to become an effective health manager/leader into the future, but little did I know that it would crystallise life lessons that I’m learning till this very day. A year isn’t much time in the grand scheme of things, yet you don’t realise how much you’ve grown until you look back and realise how much you’ve overcome. Here it goes…


I fondly recall the first time I felt fear, I was 3 and I couldn’t find my mother at the shops. It was a moment of pure despair and fright, but thank goodness, I did find her a few minutes later. Fast forward to twenty years later, primal fear has manifested into other forms – self-doubt, the unknown, the uncertain future and trepidation. Fear is the body’s way of protecting us from danger and in some cases, it’s completely justifiable – I mean, I live in Australia, land of drop bears and spiders. I digress. 

If there’s one thing that I’ve learnt this year, is that being fearless is most rewarding. Fearlessness was what prompted me to take a risk with my physiotherapy career and jump into the wild world that was health management. Fearlessness was what pushed me to complete projects at work that I thought were insurmountable. It was the factor that encouraged me to seek out all the opportunities that the college had to offer – from a stint working with a healthcare consulting company in the Gold Coast and to applying as a subcommittee member in the Emerging Health Leaders of the ACHSM. Personally, fearlessness led me to taking a solo trip across the ditch and see the beauty that was Milford Sound and feel at peace with nature. Being fearless has allowed me to realise my strength, my persistence and admiration for what I could accomplish when I had the conviction and belief. So come on, do something that scares you. If you’ve been waiting for a sign, this is the sign, go beyond and surprise yourself. Let go of your fear and you’ll see how strong you are.

Slow down and meditate

A quick search through the Harvard Business Review for articles on mindfulness/meditation will give you a plethora of results – and for good reason too. At risk of sounding like another person on LinkedIn obsessed with the latest buzzwords in the business/management community, mindfulness and meditation have true benefits in supporting our mental and physical wellbeing.

Research has shown that mindfulness training alters the neural pathways in our brains and how we engage with our surroundings. Mindfulness training grounds you to your environment, encourages one to be more present and can potentially alleviate stresses and anxieties. In an age where emails don’t seem to stop flowing into our inboxes, where trains are perennially late and where we have a million things on our to-do lists, mindfulness helps to ground oneself to be present and assist with relaxing us in our busy lives.

Mindfulness isn’t a huge commitment, embedding 5 minutes into our days practicing this invaluable technique will reap its rewards. Download an app to help and guide you through it. Practicing mindfulness is a skill that needs practice, just like weight training.  Always remember to slow down and be mindful.

Patience and time

Social media these days is proliferated with viral nonsensical memes (of which I have a soft penchant for) and other times, bizarre tweets from official accounts that make you do a double check to ensure its veracity. In the noise of the social media platform, there was one time I fondly remember on LinkedIn when I found a post that strongly resonated with me.

Obama retired at 55, Trump started at 70. Sydney is 3 hours ahead of Perth, but that doesn't make Perth slow. Someone graduated at the age of 22, but waited 5 years before securing a good job. Someone became a CEO at 25 and died at 50. While another became a CEO at 50 and lived to 90 years. Everyone in this world works based on their time zone. People around you might seem to be ahead of you and some might seem to be behind you. But everyone is running their own race, in their own time. Do not envy them and do not mock them. They are in their time zone, and you are in yours. Life is about waiting for the right moment to act. So relax. You're not early. You're not late. You are very much on time.

In an age where my generation has been conditioned to constant dopamine hits through instant gratification and transparency of everyone’s ideal lives portrayed on social media, the thoughts of needing to hit a certain milestone at a certain age have been inevitable. But what I’ve come to realise that looking at another’s path, their milestones and comparing it to your own serves no purpose other than to detract you from your goals. All will come in its own time, when the time is right. And what better way than to have this confirmed through the talks we have had with our mentors, the presentations we listened to at Congress and those that have come before us through the college. At the end of the day, everyone has their unique path to follow, no two are the same. But the important point is to keep chugging along, keep going and never give up on your goals. There is no rush.


Health is an industry that is very giving, it attracts those that have an undying optimism and drive to change the world, to give back to the people who have given them so much. Yet as we give a little more away daily, you start chipping away at yourself and someday, after a long day at work, it finally creeps up on you that you’re burnt out and have got not much left to give. In health management, the reason for why we’re in our industry mustn’t be forgotten. What we’re all striving for is to improve patient outcomes, enhance health and for some of us, to leave a positive impact on society.

It mustn’t be forgotten that putting ourselves first must be a priority, even when it seems that there are so many things to be completed. After all, if we are not well ourselves, how are expected to help others? Don’t forget to love yourself, seek time out to do things that energise you. 

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