Pursuing a medical career can be exciting, rewarding, frustrating, and humbling. Along the way, there are challenging times, and one significantly challenging time for many is the internship period. Let’s look at several ways you can prepare yourself to crush your internship and start your career off on the right foot.
For a look at additional ways to get ready for your medical internship, go to Part 1.
Focus on Being a Team Player
You’ll never work alone in the medical field, and you’ll be a key player on a team built to improve patients’ health. So you’ll need to shift your focus from wanting to outshine your peers by being the most knowledgeable or adept medical student. As an intern, your first priority will be to work well within your team.
Learn to understand the needs and wants of fellow physicians, nurses, medical assistants, case managers, technicians, secretaries, etc. Without all of these people working in sync, a hospital cannot function. So it will be important to adapt to become a part of the organization.
Prepare to Self-learn on the Go
While you may have learned a lot in med school, your internship is where you’ll focus on your specialty. This will be a time of self-learning as you orient around a specific pathology, such as COPD or diabetes. So plan to focus your attention on learning and responding to conditions you want to treat as a resident.
For instance, you can use patient engagements to identify weak spots in your knowledge, along with activities such as directing nurses on treatment, family conferences, and coding EMRs. If you identify a weak spot, plan to do some investigating into how you can improve your command of those weak points.
Expect to be Disrupted
Most medical students are aware of the disruptive nature of the job. But until you experience serial disruption, it’s hard to know how well you’ll react. This is the only profession that still relies on an outdated device invented for drug dealers to communicate – one that is always on and must be responded to.
While the immediate need to respond appropriately in the midst of doing other things will be challenging, the larger hurdle will be organizing/prioritizing your activities around these disruptions. And in some cases, the disruption will bring bad news and you’ll have to manage your emotions while you attend to multiple issues each day. So be proactive in thinking how you’ll handle disruptions in real time.
Plan to Gain Patient Knowledge Efficiently
Getting information from patient interactions is a skill you’ll want to develop early. You will want to know your patients will for multiple reasons such as providing up-to-date reports to your junior/senior resident and attending doctor or directing a plan of care to the nurses or consulting teams.
You won’t have the luxury of spending hours with one or two patients as a third-year medical student may have. So practice getting to know patients as well as you possibly can quickly. You can rehearse a series of questions and practice responding to different answers.
Ultimately, it’s hard to prepare completely for every situation or demand on you as an intern. But get yourself ready by shifting your focus from medical student to first-year intern before you set foot in a hospital. You’ll be in a great position to handle the rigors of the job and advance confidently toward your goals.