The young doctors

Hospitals can be places of sadness and suffering, but three rays of sunshine at St Vincent’s Hospital are giving their all to patient care.

Doctors Rinky Giri, Anna Bendall and Jonathan Hall began their medical careers as nurses at the Fitzroy hospital before deciding to become doctors, committing to further years of study and continuing at the hospital as medical interns and now registrars.

The number of nurses-turned-doctors is low, but the trio agree their time nursing has given them the confidence, compassion and communication skills to become better doctors.

Doctors Rinky Giri, Anna Bendall and Jonathan Hall
Doctors Rinky Giri, Anna Bendall and Jonathan Hall

“We’re doctors because we really wanted to be one,” Giri, 32, says. “A fouryear degree in our mid to late 20s shows we wanted this.

“The biggest help having been a nurse previously is on a team level. Having been on the other side, we see things from a different perspective.

“Communication is one of our strengths coming from nursing, and working with patients’ families. And just knowing how hospitals work and having that experience.

“We’re used to looking after very sick patients as nurses, so coming into an internship, which is the most junior level of the profession, we’re already used to dealing with sick, deteriorating patients, so it gives you some confidence on the job in those early days.” Bendall, 33, agrees confidence was a key factor in the transition from nurse to doctor.

“The biggest thing coming from med school to an internship was that I wasn’t nervous about starting,” she says. “I was really looking forward to it, probably because I knew how the hospital worked. I’d met people, and knew what was expected, so it was much more enjoyable.

“You go into nursing because you love working with people and you want to be part of a big team. And certainly knowing how to talk to families is a big thing.” The medicos believe TV hospital dramas glamorise a doctor’s role. With long hours and many departments working together for the best outcome for the patient, the reality is a little different.

“It’s not so much like Grey’s Anatomy,” Bendall says. “There’s a misconception that doctors are at the forefront of the treating team, which isn’t the case.

“It’s very much a broad team with the allied health, the medical team, the pharmacy – we all work very collegially to look after patients as a whole. St Vincent’s is very good in that way, that broad holistic approach, and everyone puts in equally to the patient care.” “Hospitals are portrayed as being so life and death,” Hall, 36, says. “It’s a much more slow and thoughtful process.

“You can spend hours with patients, think about them for hours after you see them, and you’re organising so much stuff behind the scenes. People don’t realise that sometimes.

You see them for 10 minutes but then there’s hours when they might think nothing is happening, but there are multiple teams involved spending hours caring for them.” As St Vincent’s celebrates its 125th year, CEO Angela Nolan says a key theme in marking the milestone has been to share the stories of staff, patients and families.

“St V’s is a bit like a big family, and we’re thrilled that these three valued staff members have not only fulfilled their career dreams, but have chosen to stay working with us in their new careers,” she says.

Run by the Sisters of Charity and named after St Vincent de Paul, who dedicated himself to serving the poor, St Vincent’s opened in 1893 in converted terraces on Victoria Parade with 30 beds and treated 2584 patients in its first 14 months. Today, there are 781 beds, and more than 46,000 presentations to the emergency department each year.

An active teaching and research hospital, St V’s employs more than 5000 staff, including about 1500 nurses and 500 doctors, across multiple sites.

It’s hoped $300,000 will be raised from a gala ball next month to further fund the emergency department as well as neuroscience, cardiology, cancer and mental health services.

Crown’s Ann Peacock will MC the event, with entertainment by Tim Campbell.



St Vincent’s established Australia’s first intensive care unit (ICU) in 1961.

About 47 per cent of patients are from a culturally and linguistically diverse background, with staff interpreters fluent in Greek, Chinese (Mandarin, Cantonese and Hakka), Vietnamese, Italian and Arabic.

Doctors perform more than 7000 elective surgeries each year including hip and knee replacements and plastic and reconstructive surgery.

St Vincent’s was one of the first hospitals to establish an Aboriginal liaison program in Victoria in 1982 and has one of the largest health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in Australia.

In 2011, St Vincent’s surgeons performed Australia’s first hand transplant in a nine-hour procedure, and in 2014, built a world-first 3D heel bone, saving a 71-year-old man from losing his leg to cancer.

St Vincent’s set up Australia’s first clinic for the care of alcoholics and the study of alcoholism in 1964.

This story was written by the Megan Miller and published in the Herald Sun on Saturday 28 July 2018

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