Holding My Breath: Seeking To Survive As An Intern – Dr Arielle Tay


from Luke’s Journal 2020 | Breath of Life | Vol.25 No.2

I remember my first day of internship vividly. I had completed an undergraduate medical degree interstate and this was my first full time job. I was unfamiliar with the hospital systems, I didn’t know any of my colleagues, and I really questioned if my medical knowledge was sufficient.

To say that I was anxious would be an understatement. I was petrified! My heart was pounding, my hands were shaking, and I could hardly breathe! That day I had probably asked my registrar a thousand questions and apologised every second sentence. Thankfully, my registrar was patient enough to deal with my overly anxious disposition. At the end of that first day, I let out a huge sigh of relief. That, was only day one of 365 days.

As the year went on, I was constantly holding my breath in anticipation for disaster to strike. I was on-edge every single day; anxious about making a mistake that would harm my patients, stressed about disappointing my seniors and letting the team down, worrying that I would miss multiple cannulation attempts in an acutely unwell patient… the list went on! In my third week of internship, I was ready to quit medicine altogether. It was emotionally exhausting.

I recall a particular day while I was working in the Acute Medical Unit. I was sleep deprived, hungry, had a particularly full bladder and my to-do list felt like it was never ending. I was stressed, anxious and felt completely demoralised. As I was walking back to the office, a friend came up to me, and seeing that I was clearly upset, asked if I was okay. As soon as he asked, I started bawling my eyes out. I cried all over his scrub top in front of all of my colleagues. Not my finest moment! I recalled thinking to myself that day, “I can’t keep going like this!” I was right. I couldn’t continue for the rest of my career like this. Being wildly nervous and constantly on-edge was completely unsustainable. Why was I so anxious? Why did small issues seem to upset me so easily?

“In my third week of internship, I was ready to quit medicine altogether.”

Throughout the year, God graciously revealed to me the cause of my anxieties. It all came down to my pride. I was relying too much on my own abilities. I was putting all my worth and value in my career and how my colleagues viewed me. This raised a few questions in my mind. What does God think about this? Am I fully trusting in Him? Do I really believe His promises? How can I change to rely more on Him and not myself?

Through friends at church and at work I was being reminded of God’s grace, mercy and love, and that He works for our good. As it is written in Romans “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32 ESV). God gave up His Son for sinners to have victory over sin and death so that we can be reconciled with Him. To be saved from sin is our greatest need and God rescuing us from the wages of sin without any contribution from our part is the greatest love that we could ever experience! He foreknew us, predestined us, calls us, freely justifies us, and gives us the hope of glory all through Christ (Romans 8:30 ESV). Since God did not withhold His Son, He will not withhold anything else that He knows will help us glorify Him and enjoy our relationship with Him.

Knowing God’s love and having this confidence allows us to fully trust in Him and know that He listens to our desperate prayers. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 ESV). God truly cares for His children and loves to listen to our prayers. Recognising this and looking at the bigger picture of God’s plan for His people allowed me to find peace in God’s promises and let go of my anxieties surrounding work. I began to start enjoying my work, focusing on my patients, rather than worrying about potential mistakes or what my co-workers thought of me.

“God was guiding me to learn to fully trust in Him.”

On the last day of my internship I began to reflect on the year that had passed. I had finished an ED night shift and I was completely exhausted. Just before I went to bed I remember praising God that He saw me through the year. Thinking back, I am so grateful for His providence and love towards me. He helped me to understand the hospital systems better, allowed me to apply my knowledge, improve my skills, and provided a great supportive group of friends at work and at church. Moreover, God helped me to see His steadfast love, reminded me of my citizenship in heaven, and helped me find comfort in Him from having assurance in His promises.

It was a tough year. God was guiding me to learn to fully trust in Him. Although I know I will continue to have periods of anxiety, praise God that through Christ, He allows His people to draw near to Him and experience His mercy. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16 ESV). He knows his people intimately and fully understands our weaknesses, yet still has unconditional compassion towards us. Therefore, we don’t have to run away from God. We can boldly stand before His throne and ask Him for help. My prayer is that God will help us to stop anxiously holding our breath, knowing that we have such a loving heavenly Father!

Dr Arielle Tay is a junior doctor working for the South Metropolitan Health Service in Western Australia. She is hoping to specialise in General Practice. She became a part of the Luke’s Journal editorial committee to encourage fellow Christians within healthcare to press on in being the salt and light in their workplaces.

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