Vic Management Interns' blog

Blog posts by Victorian 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

Health Management Interns, ACHSM

Reflections on completing the internship during COVID-19 (Lucy Sutherland)

By Lucy Sutherland

2nd Year Management Intern

Publication date: 7 Oct 2021

I expected a health management internship to be dynamic and challenging, but I didn’t anticipate completing the program during a once in a hundred-year global pandemic. I don’t think you can be completely prepared for your internship experience. It drives you to be adaptable, resilient and prepared for anything. 

As I reflect on my placements and clinical work over the past two years, I have experienced all aspects of the pandemic. I commenced my placement in 2020 in a regional hospital, then to the epicentre of the pandemic at a metropolitan hospital and now in our third wave at the Department of Health. I’ve also continued to work clinically during the internship where I have cared for COVID-19 positive patients on the frontline. 

All these experiences have afforded me a once in a lifetime opportunity to participate in the emergency response at different stages and levels of governance within the health system. I have been in awe of the dedication and commitment demonstrated at my placement organisations in such unprecedented times. The COVID-19 pandemic has been described as ‘the toughest leadership test to date’. Team Leaders, managers and executive teams have had to pivot at short notice, adjust to demand and support their employees through uncertainty. Navigating such complexities of a crisis involves engaging experts from different fields to devise solutions as conditions change rapidly. Leaders have needed to relinquish the top-down approach and mobilise their resources to make decisions quickly and respond effectively. It has also been necessary to create an environment that fosters transparency and collaboration across teams by sharing information and distributing authority. This instils a sense of trust and autonomy, increasing levels of productivity within the team. 

The healthcare environment longs for a return to a sense of normalcy, but at the same time I wonder what will be changed forever? How will this pandemic affect our complex health system? Despite how we handled the first challenge, the next phase-post pandemic will require a new sense of leadership. Virtual wards, remote teams and flexible work arrangements will all continue to be a part of post-pandemic life. Leading change in a brave new world means leaders must communicate a vision for change, manage resistance and support their teams to adapt. Leaders will need to become comfortable with the fact they won’t know all the answers and won’t be able to project certainty moving forward. Our health system is transitioning into a new phase that is both exciting and terrifying at the same time as policy reforms that have taken years to develop are being implemented in quick succession.    

These are unique experiences, skills and reflections I will take into my future career as a health manager and will forever be part of my internship journey.


Views are those of the individual authors and not those of ACHSM or management interns’ host organisations or employers.

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