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5 Skills You Need to Master to Survive Intern Year Residency

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Now that you are entering intern year, you must be feeling quite overwhelmed at the daunting process. Fear of the unknown, coupled with feelings of trepidation about how you can prepare or if you will even survive, must be keeping you up all night. We assure you that nothing could have prepared you for the demands and challenges of an internship year. All of the rigors of your Caribbean medical school seasoned with a truckload of responsibility, draining hours, and a dash of acute decision-making, and there – you have intern year. Be prepared to explore a whole new environment, much like a 2-year-old learning that hot things will burn her hands. However, there are some unsaid, unspoken tips shared by residents that will make your transition to residency even smoother. Let’s dig in.

Celebrate your wins

Bluntly put; intern year is the hardest, and you will often find yourself tearful at the end of a 16-hour shift, or slouched over the kitchen counter eating cold leftovers at the oddest hours of the day. But then there are those small, heart-felt moments that make all the drudgery worthwhile. Watching your patient stepping out the hospital on their own feet, or that first time you successfully placed a traumatic chest tube, are silver linings that can reinstate your confidence in yourself and carry you through the bad days when it can feel like the whole world is crumbling around you. Depending on your specialty, your wins may be different, but the key is to give yourself a pat at the back and take pride in the fact that you have made a difference in somebody’s life. During your intern year, you will do more everyday than you could ever have imagined as a medical student, including filling endless forms, completing paperwork, calling insurance companies, and much else. And while you may not like every tedious task that falls your end, but at the end of the day, each task you do daily MATTERS!

Ask questions and ASK FOR HELP!

Remember this: Nobody expects you to know everything on day one! If anything, you should consider your lack of knowledge as an opportunity for growth! Don’t wait until things turn south to admit that you need help! Make sure you are comfortable using phrases like “I don’t understand” or “I don’t know what to do”. During your intern year, you may come across unprecedented situations every now and then or assigned tasks that you have never done before, making you feel like you are thrown to the wolves. Not knowing how to navigate a tricky situation can be overwhelming to say the least. You will be scared at times and clueless as to what you are doing. This is when you should reach out to a superior who you feel comfortable with and ask them for advice or assistance.

Afterall, even the most senior attendings who seem to be great at everything were once nervous interns. If you are afraid that asking for help makes you come across as incompetent or make people second-guess your judgement, know that it will only show your supervising physicians that your first priority is to keep your patients safe and to advance your education. Remember that you don’t have to be the star resident of your program, but you absolutely have to do what is best for your patients.

Listen more than you talk

As an intern, you must feel a constant need to demonstrate how much you know to your attending. But if you constantly find yourself defending your ideas and proposals instead of accepting new perspectives, it means that you are talking more than listening. However, the truth is that the smartest interns shut up and listen. And once you learn to do just that, you will glean all the knowledge, expertise, and clinical acumen you can possess. Start observing your superiors.  Notice how the attending introduces himself to the family at the patient’s bedside, see how the senior resident pre-rounds.  As long as you are open to learning, you will greatly benefit from the experiences of your superiors.

Find a system and stick to it

If you are spending countless shifts struggling over a lack of organization, you have to find a process. Every resident has a preferred way to pre-round or organize their patient lists or the way they sign out patients. Once you find your system, it will help you move things along systematically and save you tons of time and frustration. Ask your superiors and other attendings what their system is, and see if there’s one that works reasonably well for you. If you want to stay on top of routine tasks, build a system that sits right with you. A system can be many things. From how you check off boxes on your to-do list to how you respond to pages, how you take notes for common diseases to how you sign out a lot of patients at once. Build your routine bit by bit and you will soon be flying through your shifts efficiently and methodically.

Find your comforts

Let’s face it; Once you step into the residency phase of your medical journey, you are going to be pulling a lot of all-nighters. Since the hospital is going to be your second home for a good 4-7 years, we recommend that you find whatever little comforts you can. Be it a favorite cafeteria breakfast special that keeps you energized all day long to a Starbucks at midnight to get through a call night, make sure you find little things that make your day a little bearable. Sometimes even finding that sacred clean bathroom can really cheer you up. If you are heading out for a long shift, make sure to bring a small bag with your toiletries, some make-up essentials or a change of clothes, so that you stay prepared for anything.

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