The Australian Medical Association Limited and state AMA entities comply with the Privacy Act 1988. Please refer to the AMA Privacy Policy to understand our commitment to you and information on how we store and protect your data.



17 Apr 2018

Anatomical Pathology is an unusual specialty to start off internship. The first question I get is usually exclaimed in a surprised manner - “pathology?” - followed promptly by “Did you choose it?” and “what do you do?”

Yes, I did choose pathology, and I have the absolute fortune of a three month term. Personally, I love it. While it’s not the conventional start to an internship where you are running around the wards learning how to juggle a million things at once, it does teach you a few cardinal things about the new workplace you will find yourself in.  

Being courteous to your colleagues

There is no us and them. There is the team of people who work to achieve the one goal - good patient care. A harmonious workplace is one where you treat everyone with friendliness and interest. It can be daunting walking in when you’re the only new person in the environment, but that’s okay. Everyone doesn’t mind if you have to ask their name a couple of times. The fact that you show that respect goes a long way.  And it’ll win you points towards being intern of the month.... 

Bring food

You’ll become the new superstar of the office, especially if it’s good.  

Go outside for lunch

While it sounds simple, getting away from the office for a short period of time can make a big difference to your productivity. Switch off and take a proper half hour break.  

Ask for help

They teach you this line well at med school, but it’s for a reason. Everyone on the ward and in the department can help you. To make it easier, try to find the best person to answer your question. For instance, pharmacists can answer almost all your prescribing questions, nurses can tell you more about the patient and their family, physios can help get them moving again, and there are just so many more people to help you. If you don’t know who that person is, just ask someone and ask early.  

Expect to make mistakes 

You’re not expected to know everything, and things like workflow aren’t a priority when you’re a student. Expect to make some mistakes, and next time try to anticipate situations where you might make the mistake again. If you continue to make the mistake - ask yourself why. Sometimes it’s just not understanding how your work affects other hospital staff, and a simple explanation can fix a lot of problems. As a medical student, you can gain an appreciation for these things by staying late one day to see how the intern does their jobs - it may help you immensely for when you start your own internship.  

For those interested in what an internship in pathology can offer you, my actual day goes a little like this - In the morning, I have one on one “sign out” sessions with the consultants. Here we look down the microscope at the cases cut up from the day before, figuring out the diagnosis based on histology. In the afternoon, I do “cut up.” This is where I cut sections of surgical specimens to be processed and blocked on to slides.  

Starting work can seem daunting, but you will settle in quickly. Expect things to make a little more sense around week three. Most importantly, internship is fun, so look forward to it. 


Honor Magon
BSc, MBBS (UQ), GCB.Lead (Med. Leadership)

Read other articles in this edition

Published: 17 Apr 2018