The ABCDE of Internship


Does my hip look big with these?

Congratulations to all the new interns starting tomorrow in Australia. You’ve done all the hard work. Got through high school with flying colours, survived undergrad, selected into med school, made it through the med school exams, interviewed for jobs and tomorrow, your patients and the nurses will call you ‘Doctor’. Well done! It’s been hard work till this point. Now the actual hard work begins. Here are a few things to keep in mind during your internship:

A. Ask for help

You’re an intern! On your first day, first week, first month, first rotation, first year. You are not expected to know everything and pretty much everyone in the hospital will have more experience than you. I asked for help from anyone around me including nurses, pharmacists, ward clerks, allied health and even the janitor. Be humble and accept that you will need help. And it’s not you they’re helping. It’s your patient.

B. Be kind to everyone.

Hospitals are high-pressure systems. The doctor you’re handing over to, the registrar you are referring the patient to, the nurses you round with, the admin people who organizes your rotations, are all under pressure. Understand that sometimes things don’t happen as planned or as expected. In all circumstances, be kind. You are a doctor, you are big enough to do the smallest things: clean up the mess, pick up the trays, carry the patients belongings, etc.

C. Consider the patient first and always.

Remember, they’re not rolling out the red carpet for you tomorrow. The whole thing about being part of a healthcare team is that the patient is at the centre. The hospital universe revolves around the patient, not around you.

D. Debrief often.

You will need this. Really. There will be tough days. I’ve cried alone and I’ve cried with patients (yes, we male surgeons are also in touch with our emotions). There will be days when you think you’re not cut out for this. Debrief. Speak to someone. Have coffee. Eat meals together with your team, fellow interns, friends. Talk about what you’re going through. You can’t do medicine alone. It’s a team sport. I used to debrief often with my wine, sorry, no, my wife, who’s a physician. We understand our common experiences. You will find people who share your experiences.

E. Enjoy

Don’t ever forget the wonder of medicine and the privilege of becoming a doctor. You are practicing a modernized ancient art for the benefit of others. No matter how tough your day is, remember that you are doing some crazy stuff that very few people ever get to do. I used to love doing the little things like IV lines, IDC, suturing, writing brief discharge summaries, etc. There will be lots of paperwork you’ll have to deal with as an intern. Might as well start enjoying them now. You’ll get so good at it because, you know, paperwork makes the system work.

Then there are other practical miscellaneous stuff like:

Always introduce your self, “#Hellomynameis _________, I’m an Intern.”

Don’t wear anything you can’t do CPR in.

Don’t wear anything you don’t want to get blood, urine, or vomit on.

Listen to the nurses and pharmacists.

Your tie bar should never be wider than your tie.

You must wear colourful socks.

Have a muesli bar and rehydrating drink ready at all times (energy drinks cause palpitations and tremor).

Have a change of clothes in the locker.

Have a sleeping bag and small pillow in the car boot.

Listen to the nurses and pharmacists.

Carry a folder of paperwork (blood requests, imaging requests, scripts, etc.). This will save you time!

Have a quicklist of your favourite drugs and emergency drugs (You will need this!).

Write frequently used contact numbers at the back of your name tag.

Form a WhatsApp group with your team.

Listen to the nurses and pharmacists.

Make sure you know the names of your consultants, nurses and other members of the allied health team.

Listen to the nurses and pharmacists.

And etc!