On Surviving as an Intern: Five Truths to Remember

Vanessa (Patten) Galli '14
Vanessa (Patten) Galli ’14

I admittedly spent a good portion of the fourth year of medical school dreading internship. A year where I was expected to suddenly be a doctor and to have all the answers. A year where I would work long hours and carry several pagers at one time. I come to you in blog form to inform you of some of the truths about internship. I have been an intern in Family Medicine at the University of Utah for six months now.

The first, and probably most important, truth is that I am surviving, and more than surviving, I am enjoying my experience thus far as a new intern. I am loving exploring Salt Lake City and all that Utah has to offer. While being in a brand new place is at times overwhelming, it has also been an incredible new adventure – almost every experience has been a new one.  So many new people to meet, restaurants to try, and beautiful mountains to explore.

The second truth is that you are never completely alone. The supervision and guidance that fosters you as a learner in medical school doesn’t just dissolve into thin air. While you are indeed expected to assume more responsibility and ownership over your patients, you still have the same safety net. You learn very quickly that you can and should say, “I don’t know, but I will find that out/look that up and get right back to you,” and that is a perfectly acceptable answer. You do and you will make mistakes, and that is how you continue to learn and grow. The good and bad days that you experience as a medical student remain, although you feel them more intensely. You are there to follow your patients and feel the ownership over them that you worked so hard to earn as a medical student. They will look to you and see you as their doctor. When things go right and when things go wrong, you feel the victories and the losses as your own.

The third truth is that you have time. I have time to exercise, to eat right (most of the time), to see my husband and to spend time with my co-residents and other friends outside of work. Some months are busier than others. Some months I make it to a yoga class once a week, some months I barely have time to put gas in my car. Overall, I have been pleasantly surprised by the amount of personal time I have outside of work.

The fourth truth is that some personalities in medicine are difficult, but you learn how to navigate them and to not take things as personally. You will encounter the attending who seems to never give you the time of day no matter how hard you try, or the chief who has an incredibly tactless way of correcting your mistake. You will learn to accept that every intern experiences this, and that it is in NO WAY a reflection of you, your abilities or your performance.

The final truth is that you are ready for this. I spent a lot of mental energy worrying about this last truth. I never felt ready to start my intern year, not even that first day as I nervously walked into Salt Lake Regional Medical Center’s emergency department to start work. I realized that first day, that things weren’t suddenly different, just because I was in a new hospital with a new title. The goals and objectives were all the same. I was still there to take care of patients and to do my best for them. As long as you keep that in mind, you won’t go wrong. Have trust in your excellent training, have faith in the process, and all of you fourth years – enjoy your interview season. Best of luck to each of you as you become that much closer to accomplishing your dream.

1 thought on “On Surviving as an Intern: Five Truths to Remember”

  1. Thank you for this post, Vanessa! I’m a fourth year and almost everyday I question if I’m ready for June. Your post was reassuring 🙂

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