Planning for Your Medical Internship: Part 1

Written by: Alex Brown
Published on: Aug 12, 2021

Planning for Medical Internship

Your journey through med school is over, the residency application process is done, and you’ve been matched. You are a PGY-1 full of ambition and nervous energy. You’re going to be a real doctor with all the responsibilities and perks of a respected position.

First-year residents face challenges, pitfalls, successes, and internal struggles. So, many ask a common question before they dip their feet in the water: how do I prepare for my internship? 

Let’s look at a few ways you can get yourself ready for this exciting new adventure.

Plan for Time to Adapt

It’s a whole new ballgame when it comes to performing as an intern. You’re no longer assisting and must rely on an independent approach to daily routines. As such, you can adapt to this situation by getting to your facility early and giving yourself extra time to collect vitals, examine patients, review labs, and update plans of care. Allowing yourself more time during rounds when you start your intern year will help decrease the likelihood of making mistakes or overlooking something.

Prepare for Duties not Taught in School

Med school prepares you for the practical application of healthcare. Where it falls short is conditioning you for the myriad duties associated with bedside care. For example, you may likely take on the responsibility of being a patient advocate: making sure they actually receive their medications for home recovery, assisting with nursing home placement, or communicating with a primary doctor. These duties all play a role in getting your patient back health but are learned on the job. Prepare yourself by gaining a clear understanding of how others manage these responsibilities.

Plan to Take “Me” Time

As humans, we’re not built to withstand constant prolonged stress. As you deal with chronic sleep deprivation, long hours, sick and dying patients, and the many other demands on you, you must find a way to stay sane. So, plan to build in a few minutes of relaxation on a daily basis. Some interns choose to exercise as a way to clear their mind; others decide to read novels. Create a way to include an enjoyable pastime to help center you.

Medical Intern

Prepare for a “Steep Learning Curve”

Residency applicants claim to hear the phrase “steep learning curve” often during interviews. And no medical books or classroom exercises can fully prepare you to care for a seriously ill patient with an uncertain diagnosis or to navigate diverse cultural beliefs that color how patients and families may respond to diagnoses or treatment options. So, embrace the fact that although you’ve learned a great deal in school, you’ve got a long road of learning still to travel.

Plan to Feel Proud – Even Through Tough Times

On a positive note, prepare to keep yourself positive and know why you’re here. You get to help patients in their most vulnerable moments. There is a reason you’ve sacrificed so much to do what you do, so appreciate how great it is to be a physician. Practicing medicine is rewarding, stimulating, complex and, at times, really fun.