Articles and Case Studies

Doctor, Fundraiser and Mum-to-be

05 Jun 2014

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Dr Alex Markwell is a high-achieving young doctor. Since graduating in 2002, she has been a strong advocate for junior doctors – lobbying for increased clinical training capacity, safer working hours, work-life flexibility and doctors’ health and wellbeing. She was the past President of AMA Queensland (AMAQ) and is the current Ambassador for the AMAQ Foundation’s Thank You Doctor Campaign.
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1. When did you realise you wanted to become a doctor?

I loved languages and biology at school, so I was interested in studying medicine – but I finished high school just as the only medical school in Queensland (UQ) was changing to the post-graduate course. So I completed a BSc at UQ majoring in physiology, pharmacology and pathology. I realised very early on that I loved the pathological basis for disease and treatment. I was accepted into the UQ MBBS course upon completion of my BSc.

2. What’s a typical day in your life as an Emergency Physician?

A 10-hour clinical shift will start in the morning or early afternoon. Once you’re on the floor, it’s rare to get away even for meal breaks. So you become efficient at eating on the run and having plenty of snacks on hand to get through the shift. Depending on my rostered shift, I may be looking after traumas and very sick patients requiring resuscitation, general “acute” patients or even patients in our short stay ward. But no matter where, the shift is always full of variety and clinical challenges!

I’m also fortunate to have teaching and training roles at both the hospitals where I work. Every week I have dedicated teaching time with students, junior doctors, registrars and sometimes nurses. I enjoy it and it gives me a chance to “recharge” and have a break from the sometimes gruelling floor shifts.

As an emergency doctor, I’m sadly often the one to break bad news such as a serious diagnosis or even the death of a loved one. It’s important to make this distressing experience less traumatic and provide comfort to the patients and their families.

3. Tell us about your interest in promoting medical education.

I’ve been interested in education and training since I was a peer tutor in my undergraduate degree. In my previous role as a junior doctor representative, it was very obvious that some junior doctors were given limited supervision and training, resulting in poor patient outcomes. Effective, supportive and accessible education and training are so important for our patients and healthcare providers. I thoroughly enjoy my role as Co-director of Emergency Medicine Training at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH), and the other education roles I have both with Greenslopes Private Hospital and the RBWH.

Mum to be 14. What are your interests outside of work?

I love the outdoors and try to exercise regularly – although rosters, meetings and travel can make this tricky at times. I enjoy sailing and reading. My husband and I also try to catch up with friends and family as often as we can. We love trying different foods, meeting new people and being exposed to new experiences.

5. What’s your involvement with the Thank You Doctor Campaign?

At times, patients like to express their gratitude by giving gifts to doctors, ranging from chocolates or flowers to gifts of much higher value. Although the patients mean well, accepting such gifts raises ethical issues for the doctors. The AMAQ Foundation’s Thank You Doctor Campaign allows patients to show their appreciation in a way that doesn’t transgress doctors’ ethical boundaries. As a past Director and current Ambassador of the Foundation, I’m proud to support this campaign. It encourages patients to thank their doctors by making a donation to the Foundation – and the funds are used where most needed to support programs of doctors helping patients and “doing good”.

View Dr Markwell’s promotional video on the Thank You Doctor Campaign.
Visit the AMAQ Foundation website for more information about the campaign.

6. You have a very busy schedule – how do you manage to fit it all in?

A wise friend and mentor told me once, “You can do anything but not everything.” Trying to be selective in what you do can be tricky, especially as often saying “yes” to one thing then leads to many more requests. I’m more productive in the mornings, so I try to get some work done before starting a clinical shift or the day’s activities. I’m also trying to get better at saying “no”!

7. Do you have any words of advice for our intern Members?

The first year is such a big year as an intern. Most of us struggled at some stage, so being prepared for the times that are tough and making sure you develop healthy coping strategies now is really important. Share your challenges, frustrations and disappointments with your friends and peers. You can feel isolated at times, but be reassured that everyone has been challenged at some point, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Watch MDA National’s videos on YouTube for practical tips on surviving internship:
Surviving Nightshift and Things I Wish I’d Known as a New Intern.

8. What’s next for you, personally and professionally?

We’re expecting our first child in July, so we’re trying to prepare for the next stage in our lives – although my friends with children are quick to point out that you can never be prepared. I’m looking forward to the enforced “sabbatical” from six months of maternity leave, although I suspect it will be over before I know it!

Employment Essentials, Emergency Medicine
 

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