Calling New Interns: Tips For Surviving Your Intern Year

Calling New Interns: Tips For Surviving Your Intern Year

For a lot of people, July is the start of summer, complete with fireworks, pool time, barbecues, and days at the beach. But for the latest class of medical school graduates, this is the time to get to work. As a new medical intern, you will finally experience working as a doctor during your year-long medical internship.

We talked to Dr. Karen Shackelford, and she shared some tips on surviving, excelling in, and dare we say it… enjoying your intern year. In her words, “your intern year is like summer camp for science nerds.” Here are some tips to make the most of this exciting year:

  1. Up-to-Date is a great resource to get you ready to start your rounds.
  2. Round before your senior resident. This way you’re prepared to answer questions before they’re even asked.
  3. Be kind and respectful to the nurses. Their days are as hard (if not harder) than yours, and they are invaluable resources for information.
  4. Don’t make plans, and forget about having “regular hours.” Your intern year is what you’re doing this year.
  5. Be the intern your attendings depend on. This can help get you access to more interesting cases.
  6. Enjoy rounds – they are better than Jeopardy. Be prepared, and don’t hesitate to  speak up.
  7. Bring eye drops if you wear contacts, as you likely will wear them longer than usual.
  8. Make exercise a priority to keep your mind and body sharp. It can be as simple as stopping at the gym on the way home from your shift. This will quickly become a habit. Keep this schedule even after night shifts.
  9. Food is for nutrition, not for comfort. Avoid eating when you’re in crisis or stressed out, and try to maintain a healthy diet.
  10. Stay hydrated! Drink lots of water.
  11. Sleep whenever and wherever you can.
  12. Always ask if you don’t know the answer. It is much worse to pretend you know something and put the patient at risk.
  13. Acknowledge your mistakes and take responsibility for your patients and your actions.
  14. Don’t lie about the things that you did or did not do, even if you fear getting in trouble. In patient care, you can easily risk someone’s life with a little white lie.
  15. Be honest. As a medical intern, you are there to learn. No one expects you to have all the answers.
  16. Stay current on news and trends, and speak up about it. Attendings may not have seen a study you’ve done research on, and it will show you’re dedicated to your craft.
  17. Don’t sleep on your knowledge, and always be prepping for your next exam so a test doesn’t get in the way for success.

Get ready for the ride of your life. This year will change you– hopefully in all positive ways. Either way, this is a critical year in your career, take it seriously and enjoy it!

The writing staff at BoardVitals is passionate about medicine, healthcare, and education. We’ve trained over 1.5 million physicians and work with more than 300 top teaching institutions. Learn more about our board review and continuing education products at

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