For many junior doctors, the start of this year was the realisation of a dream and the product of years of scrupulous study; but, it quickly became much more than that – it became the ultimate baptism of fire.
COVID-19’s arrival turned the lives of interns and residents upside down.
One of those affected was Dr Milonee Shah – a second year junior medical officer wanting to pursue a career in critical care. Milonee’s first placement for the year was ED, followed by a stint in ICU.
"For me, it was scary, but at the same time it was perfect," she said.
"As someone who wants to pursue a career in critical care medicine and has a passion for adrenaline filled situations like retrievals, working in ED and ICU for the nine months of this year has been extremely valuable.
"I put it this way, if I can handle the stress and dynamic nature of a pandemic, then I’m definitely built for this career."
While the experience would prove to be invaluable, it would also take its toll on Milonee, and many of her colleagues.
"None of us have ever experienced a pandemic, let alone having to face the reality of continuing to work through one whilst also maintaining a brave face as frontliners for the community," she said.
"Alongside getting used to the lifestyle of a junior doctor, which often has its own associated stress and fatigue, having the added cognitive element of constantly thinking about COVID-19, whether my patient might need to be screened, how to keep myself, my colleagues and my dear ones safe - all of that has had a subconscious impact and has made it a more challenging journey as a junior doctor.
"It was a stressful time from a mental health point of view, dealing with our own personal lives and safety whilst also managing the high levels of anxiety and concern in the community."
Milonee said the camaraderie among staff was one of the most essential tools in the fight against the virus, as well as support from the junior medical staff unit and the Residential Medical Officers’ Association.
"The doctors, nurses, administrative and support staff - everyone was crucial to supporting everyone else," she said.
"It was important for all the staff to be adaptable, flexible and maintain a sense of disconnect from the stress of the whole situation in order to keep servicing our community.