How to Survive Internship – A Few Pointers for Our Newest Doctors!

Medical education in our country is very mindless and impractical, and this irrelevance reaches a peak during the one year of compulsory internship. In good medical colleges, internship is a grueling affair – collecting samples, chasing lab reports, completing paperwork, and worrying about not getting enough time to study for the looming PG Entrance exams!

Unfortunately, medical colleges are still very hierarchical, and the most boring and the most clerical work is given to the junior-most person on the team, who often happens to be the intern. In the US residency programs, it’s the same, except that there are 3rd and 4th year medical students who show up at 5am every day (or should I say every night?) to prepare the “rounding sheets” for the unit, and the interns have the “luxury” to show up at 6am to supervise their work!

The whole experience is demeaning, exhausting, and the hard work mostly goes unappreciated, and seems as irrelevant to the future as creating memes instead of studying for exams. To add isopropyl alcohol to injury, you can’t see any plan in anyone’s mind how to educate or train the green intern!

So, here are a few recipes to help you grow like a wildflower during this anarchic roller-coaster ride from a survivor who likes to thoroughly mix his metaphors:

  • It’s essential to level-up yourself to mastery in certain skills, so that you can do them with your eyes closed! Even if they’re basic stuff like measuring blood pressure, phlebotomy, taking good history, guiding patients, etc.. In your medical career you’ll always have “difficult” patients, in whom even experienced nurses find it difficult to find a vein for phlebotomy or to place a cannula. They’ll call on you, and your respect will rise thousand times if you can do that “difficult” procedure. And gaining the elusive respect of nurses can really smoothen a doctor’s life, I tell you! Practice perfect makes. ~ Master Yoda
  • Try to make friends with surgery residents, and get to do some minor procedures in Minor OT, and suturing in the emergency. Getting exposed to basic surgical skills will give you an edge in whatever speciality you decide to join. All specialties are becoming procedural, and “hath ki safai” is a much valued skill. All you need to master a procedure is to “see one, do one, and teach one”!
  • Similarly, OPD is the place to learn the treatment of minor illnesses, dosage of common medicines, and interpretation of common lab tests. This is important during Medicine, Peds, and Ob-Gyn rotations. Making friends with JRs and asking them lots of questions helps! And taking care of their clerical work is the best way to get them to warm up to you!
  • Now comes the best part to learn during internship – your community medicine rotation. That’s the one rotation where you will see patients independently, and where you can make a difference in people’s lives with your decisions and actions. Go armed with Medscape on your phone, and a handbook by your side. Unashamedly consult these resources in front of patients, keep learning, and rejoice in your well-earned tag of “doctor sahab”!
  • Lastly, choose your electives wisely. Most students choose cool electives where they can study for NEET PG fulltime without any expectations. There are other ways to utilise this opportunity better: those who have US residency on their mind go to US for electives during this time, and those who are really interested in pursuing a research career join a paraclinical department with good research lab. You can even join a cool elective, and follow a Family Physician or GP in your free time! They will tell you shortcuts, nuggets, and pearls distilled from their wisdom that will serve you for the whole of your life!

Medical education in India sorely needs a rehaul! We need more young people to speak up on these issues, and talk about them. Join professional societies, and with the help of their leaders, meet, educate and put pressure on the bureaucrats who can make changes for the better! It takes time and effort, of course! Let’s start today!

In the meantime, we learn from whatever resources we’re given.. If you’re in a government medical college swamped with a huge patient flow, think about the poor medical students (actually rich medical students) studying in private medical colleges where there are no patients to learn from! And if you’re in a private medical college with no patients to learn from, think about your government college peers who don’t get enough time to study for NEET PG!

Hope this makes everyone feel better! 😀

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