15 Aug 2022

1,000 new doctors have 'duty' to look after their health in what will be an unprecedented year

Medical Council also reveals a big increase in hospital interns this year

coronavirus covid-19

Newly qualified young doctors in Ireland who face an unprecedented intern year in Irish hospitals have a duty to look after their own health, according to the head of the body that registers and polices medics. 

The Medical Council President Dr Rita Doyle has written to each of the more than 1,000 medical interns to congratulate them as they embark in their medical careers, amid the challenges of COVID-19.

The Council has also revealed that there has been big increase in the number of young doctors who have registered to do their intern year in Ireland.

“You will learn more this year than you will in any single year of your career ahead. Embrace it. Of course, this year is different for you as you will face something no intern year has ever faced before,” she said.

The letter stresses the importance of personal well-being and the requirement for each new doctor to have their own GP, in accordance with Guide to Professional Conduct & Ethics from the Medical Council.

“A sick doctor is a patient. And cannot be of benefit to their own patients… you must remember your duty to protect your own health and contribute to the safety and wellbeing of other healthcare workers,” added Dr Rita Doyle.

Acknowledging the challenges of COVID-19 facing the health service and these new doctors, Dr Doyle encourages the class of 2020/21 to trust in their training, skills, trainers and one another.

Recently appointed Interim CEO of the Medical Council, Philip Brady added: “The Medical Council plays an important role in supporting doctors and protecting patients. Our new colleagues should be confident that the Council is here to support them throughout their careers. Our efforts to support Ireland’s response in tackling COVID-19 will be bolstered by the registration of 1,020 interns so far this month. This is a sizable increase on the 733 registered in 2019.”

A full copy of the letter is included below:

Letter to Intern Year 2020/2021 from the President of the Medical Council

Dear Colleague,

I choose that word carefully, colleague, for you have completed your medical degree, am proud to call you a colleague.

As President of the Medical Council I am honoured to welcome you to the profession.

The Medical Councils role is to protect patients and to support doctors. The Council has been with you from the time you filled in your CAO form, applied to a graduate-entry programme or applied to an Irish Medical School to study medicine. The Council will continue to support you, throughout your career, right up to the day you retire.

Last year I had the privilege of speaking to the incoming interns at the National Intern Gathering organised by the NDTP. For obvious reasons that is not possible.

As a member of the incoming intern year you face many challenges and new experiences. This is a familiar and normal feeling for all newly qualified doctors. You will learn more this year than you will in any single year of your career ahead. Embrace it. Of course this year is different for you as you will face something no intern year has ever faced before. We, your colleagues, will be there to support you.

I can still remember much of my Intern Year. I remember the SHOs and Registrars who taught, encouraged and supported me. I remember the fun of being part of a team. I remember the pain in my feet, not being used to standing all day, but most of all I remember the patients who were patient and tolerant of me. I still remember some of their names. I also remember, with great discomfort attending the post-mortem of a patient with whom I had spoken the previous day. I found it chilling and haunting and I would have been too shy to share it with anyone. Now I know that these events must be shared in order to make sense of them and there is no shame in being frightened or upset.

There are a number of things I wish to say to you as you begin the start of your career in medicine.

Once you receive your intern place make sure you have a GP. As a doctor you have an ethical duty to care for yourself. A sick doctor is a patient. And cannot be of benefit to their own patients. You should be provided with a list of GPs in your area when you begin and you can also visit the Irish College of General Practitioners website to view GPs in your area.

While you and your colleagues will be providing high levels of medical care during this pandemic, you must remember your duty to protect your own health and contribute to the safety and wellbeing of other healthcare workers. Registered medical practitioners of all levels of training and experience are called upon to do their utmost in giving compassionate care to patients, and wholehearted support to each other. Please remember that amidst the heavy workload, longer hours, additional pressure and stress, please take the time to care for yourself. Take breaks, eat regularly, and get rest.

One of the greatest tools in a doctor’s medical bag is strong communications skills. Being a good communicator will help you to treat your patients, to inform family members in a clear way with compassion and to support your colleagues, especially your fellow interns.

At various points this year you will face some very tough days. You will also have days filled with joy. This is true for your fellow interns too. Take the time to check in on one another. Be there for one another. You will never now how much it means to be offered a cup of tea from a colleague at a time you need it until you are offered. Medicine is the caring profession and that extends beyond your patients. You must care for each other. Some of your fellow interns will become your best friends who will stay with you for life. Care for one another. Support each other.

Compassion and empathy: Human beings feel- so doctors must feel also. Patients need to feel heard. At the end of the day people won’t remember exactly what you said or did but they will remember how you made them feel. Always introduce yourself when you meet a patient or family members.

Curiosity is a very important trait in a doctor. By this I mean “why” must always be on the front of our radar. Why did that patient get this disease now. What caused that?

Scepticism is a necessary part of our armamentarium, particularly with regard to evaluating research. It is not common enough amongst medics.

Strong work ethic: You will work hard, no two ways about that but there needs to be a good work-life balance.

Humility: Capacity of having a modest view of one’s own performance, one that is important throughout your career.

Knowledge: You will never know as much about medicine as you do now. Final med standard is generalist. You will probably go on to specialisation and become a master in your own field.

Confidence: After a while you should develop a quiet confident way about you. Arrogance or cockiness has no place in medicine.

Professionalism: The doctor patient relationship is a privileged one, one that depends on the patients trust in the doctor’s professional conduct. Professionalism is at the core of the doctor patient relationship and is fundamental for patient safety and the delivery of high-quality healthcare.

You have been educated and trained in some of the worlds best medical schools. As you embark on the next phase of your education, as it is only the next phase as the study of medicine is life long, trust in your training, trust in your skills, trust in your trainers and most importantly trust one another.

You are joining a noble profession. A caring profession. To quote Hippocrates "Wherever the art of Medicine is loved, there is also a love of Humanity.”

Finally, I know that despite the excitement of beginning your career you may have some fear and concerns in relation to the current situation with COVID-19. This is a challenging time for us all, but one we will get through together. To quote the poet Seamus Heaney – “If we winter this one out, we can summer anywhere.”

Once again, welcome to the profession. I am proud to call you my colleague.

Kind regards,

Dr Rita Doyle
President of the Medical Council

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