NSW Management Interns' Blog

Blog posts by NSW Management Interns of the Australasian College of Health Service management


Oscar Chaffey
Oscar Chaffey

ACHSM blog

A Jack of all Trades, working to become an expert at something!

Coming to the end of my 2-year HMIP experience allows a great opportunity to reflect where I started and where I am at now.

Finishing high school in 2012, I graduated with a double Bachelors in 2017. I completed a Bachelor of Science (majoring in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology) and a Bachelor of Business and Commerce (majoring in Management). I wanted to find a place for myself in health and did not know where to start. Finding a starting point in health without formal studies in medicine, at the time I graduated, proved an uncertain realm.

After graduation, I got myself into a highly competitive Graduate program with a private organisation, and quickly realised that working purely in business was not for me. I wanted to help people.

Shortly after in 2018, I worked in a health related industry- I was recruited as a sales representative for a company that manufactured and distributed Assistive Technology for Blindness and Low Vision. This gave me a taste of working with clinicians who supported those disadvantaged by varying disabilities. I loved the work I did and the clients I had - but knew that it wasn’t it just yet.

In 2019, I started the HMIP, having only a mere year in the workforce before returning to study once more. I admit it was intimidating being surrounded by those with lengthy experiences in Health, especially Public Health, but I wanted to learn. And I was lucky enough to be offered an opportunity with the Agency for Clinical Innovation as my first year with the HMIP.

Working in the ACI gave me the grounding and foundational understanding of Health that I needed, and in the space of the work culture, I felt safe to learn, ask questions, get involved and see how things worked from a unique perspective. My rotations were across three areas; from Clinical Networks (Stroke and Rehabilitation), to Finance and Corporate Services and finishing with Clinical Monitoring, Economics and Evaluation. I was involved in various projects, sat in a wide range of meetings, attended events from state-wide health to team specific, and so much more. From sitting in Executive meetings to supporting the facilitation of workshops for clinicians in specialized areas of health, the ACI and ACHSM provided a real-life project, where I had the chance to learn, be immersed in the environment, and get a better idea of what Health is at different levels.

On to my second year in 2020 with Odyssey House NSW. It was a wildly different experience. As a not-for-profit non-government organisation providing tertiary health services, this was the other side of the coin (if that coin had four sides!). It had been described to me as the part of health that works with those who fall through the cracks of the traditional health care system. Working in Alcohol and Drugs presents its own unique challenges but is also the ideal opportunity to learn about the value of health care services within a niche area. Only in a not-for-profit branch of health will you see the level of passion and dedication of clinicians in helping their vulnerable and highly stigmatised clients work through not only surpassing health challenges, but rebuilding their lives for the better. For these clinicians, it wasn’t about just having a job, but the purpose of their work and the lives of the people they are helping to improve.

Appreciative of the foundations I developed in my first year, this second year saw the inception of COVID-19 in all its glory. Initially planning a range of projects to be involved in, I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to be part of the COVID-19 response team. Even so, I still worked through my rotations; Planning and Development, Community Services, Finance and Commercial Services, and finishing with Programs (Residential Services). From developing protocols for health screening and infection control, to developing reports in applications to NSW Health and the ACHS, buying hand sanitiser to tracking data and helping setting up systems for internal contact tracing should it be required, I appreciated the close-knit structure of the organisation in both being able to get involved in high-level activities, further refine my skills in key areas as well as have the support available when needed to tackle each arising challenge.

Odyssey House gave me a wide range of opportunities, allowed me to steer my learning in alignment with the needs of the organisation, and work through challenging times with all the support I could ask for! Workplace culture is vital in aiding one’s work experience, and the unique and supportive culture of Odyssey House, and the ACI, were ideal in guiding my learning, both inside and outside of my formal work responsibilities, and supporting my character development.

Balancing the personal pressures of living through a pandemic, with the continuously evolving challenges within the workplace, and finishing off a degree in the meantime, was the toughest year of my life, but I can honestly say that I have grown so much because of it and I would not take back a second!

It all sounds a little overwhelming, and it honestly can be at times. But as long as you have the right attitude and you seek help when you need it, there are always ways to get through it. This program is designed for those who are seeking to learn, to grow, who are willing to take on a varied range of projects or roles in the hopes of finding where they fit and learn about the ever-complex and growing industry that is Health care.

Anyone can do it if they put their mind to it! I have seen past interns who started straight from their first Bachelors degree, through to a fifteen-year plus career in health. Some had never worked in health and others decided to come back to study later in life. There are no pre-requisites besides being a continuous learner, being open-minded to opportunity and having the ambition to finish. It does not offer an advantage to the most expert, intelligent, most qualified or any other particular character trait -beyond dedication and ambition. This is the value of such a fantastic learning opportunity, and ACHSM work with their partners to provide and support each Intern to see them through to completion and success to each person’s own journey.

I would recommend this program to any person looking to work in Health and looking for growth or, if you’re like me, seeking a beacon in a complex world.

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