It's six months since new MP Dr Ayesha Verrall left the frying pan of her life as an infectious diseases specialist during Covid-19 and jumped straight into the fire of Cabinet.
Verrall was not surprised by the workload. But aspects of it remind her of her time doing night shifts as a junior doctor at Wellington Hospital.
"I didn't really understand how much physical stamina is involved in this job - I guess there's the carousel of continuous meetings and commitments. It feels like when I used to do nights as a House Officer."
Verrall is one of a small group of politicians to go straight into Cabinet in their first term. Her predecessors in that regard are former National MP Steven Joyce and former Labour MP Margaret Wilson.
It was not Verrall's first run-in with politics. She knew fellow minister Chris Hipkins well from university, and also knew Grant Robertson.
But while their careers have always been geared around politics, Verrall's has not.
She was an infectious diseases physician before becoming a senior lecturer and infectious diseases specialist at the University of Otago. She did not like everything she saw.
Politics was a chance to put her money where her mouth was.
"Many of the things we are working on I've thought through my entire career 'somebody has to do that'. And I have the chance. That's a great opportunity. But it's also a big challenge."
Verrall's background has also sometimes proved a challenge for officials. After a few meetings with Ministry of Health officials, one of them mentioned they would have to change the mix of people they were sending to her. The problem was many of Verrall's questions were too technical for them to answer.
Verrall's portfolios include Food Safety, Seniors and associate health. She has also taken on the Conservation portfolio while her colleague, Kiritapu Allan, is on leave with cervical cancer.
Verrall enjoys the mix, which has seen her work on tobacco control measures, and a review of Fish and Game. She quickly learned Conservation was not all about cute animals, but also about "being sued'.
But it is in health in which she is most valuable for Labour. She can confidently fill in for Covid-19 Minister Chris Hipkins on Covid-related issues and her experience as a DHB member gave her some awareness of the problems with the system.
The interview is on the day Health Minister Andrew Little announced health reforms, including scrapping the district health boards, and instead setting up a national health service, with four regional arms.
Verrall's main role in the reforms was in developing pandemic policy.
Verrall says the impact of Covid on those reforms was obvious.
"It's not centralisation, it's having co-ordination across one system and not having bureaucratic barriers to be able to instruct DHBs to take care of PPE, or public health units to use a single, national information system which was something we had to work through in the pandemic."
There was some initial criticism of Verrall when it was announced she would stand for Labour last May, given she was also a commentator on the Covid-19 response.
Verrall does have a history with Labour – she stood for the Capital Coast DHB on a Labour ticket - but she was no forelock tugger when it came to Covid-19.
She was one of the critics of aspects of the initial response to Covid-19, calling for much stronger testing and contact tracing regimes.
When she is asked how her new role has impacted on her personal life, Verrall laughs and says "the personal life I used to have".
Verrall lives in Wellington with her wife Alice and 7-year-old daughter. She does not see them quite as much as she used to.
She was one of a large intake of 23 new MPs for Labour.
MPs elected in the same year tend to stick together socially. As the only Cabinet minister among them, she does not have the same time for socialising but she counts them among her friends in Parliament.
The other new ministers have also bonded. One of those is Kiritapu Allan, who has the office next to Verrall.
It was Verrall who urged Allan to go to the doctor after unusual bleeding – and she misses having her around while Allan gets treatment.
"She's a hugely charismatic person, extroverted, incredibly sharp. And it's just a huge amount of fun to be with her. I just want her to get better."
Verrall does get called on by fellow MPs with medical problems, small and large.
"There is a lot of pressure in here, and I think everyone wants to do their best for their community. People put some of their own health needs second, and I'm very happy to be the grouchy doctor lady who makes them go to the doctor. That's my role – not to be their doctor."
Once a doctor, always a doctor.