5 Tips for Surviving Your 1st Year as an Incoming Intern

Across the country, Interns will be beginning their residency. Here are some thoughts on what to expect and perhaps even how to survive your first year from Natasha Bhalla, a first year (almost second year!) surgical intern.


  1. There are high expectations for you. When I look at the responsibility that a fourth-year medical student versus an intern is given, I realize the vast difference. A medical student is someone that an Attending or a Resident is expected to teach. Somedays in the hospital that is very difficult. An Intern, on the other hand, is someone who expected to move the surgical case along or help stabilize the ICU patient so they can be downgraded to the floor. They are expected to know a lot and keep the day moving. 


  1. You are expected to learn fast. This is an unfortunate truth about Intern year and perhaps all of residency. I remember interacting with the IM chiefs during the beginning of my Intern year. They expected their Interns to carry 7-10 patients (which is a lot) and know how to put in orders, and manage the patient’s hyperkalemia, or hypokalemia on Day 3! Because an Intern did not know how to do all of that quickly on Day 3, they were considered a bad Intern. Crazy! But true. My tip for this – take lots of notes during your first few months. I wrote everything down initially – what I needed to do that day, how to manage common medical issues, how to put in orders, how to discharge the patients. I believe that my knowledge made the life of my seniors and attendings a bit easier.


  1. Do not make any social plans on weekdays - I only made social plans on weekends when I definitively knew I was not on call. Life in the hospital is unpredictable. When you are a surgical resident, you do not know if a surgical case will get added on as emergent at 7 pm. As a medical resident, you do not know if you will receive an admission 10 minutes before sign out and your senior will want to teach you how to admit a patient. Essentially your life belongs to your seniors and to your residency. This changes with time of course. But initially, it is the best way to learn and gain the trust of your seniors and attendings.


  1. Becomes friends with your co-residents and nurses. They are your allies. If you are aiming to be in the medical profession then to some degree, you have a type A personality. That may mean that you have trouble asking for help. I struggled with this one a lot. Despite all your note taking and dedication to your residency, your co-resident or nurse may have knowledge that you may not.


  1. It is okay if you are not reading as much about your field every day. Coming out of medical school, you are used to spending hours studying and reading. Intern year is about learning about the hospital and keeping things moving. Even if you put in 30 minutes of reading versus the 4 hours you are used to, you are still doing great.


At the end of day, it is a great year and when you look back at how much you learnt, it is amazing! Good luck to everyone starting their Intern year. If you need someone to speak to you, I am more than happy to be available.


Ambassador Natasha Bhalla is an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon practicing in New York. She loves the excitement associated with surgery and is passionate about helping patients with their functional and aesthetic issues.  She is passionate about exercise to relieve daily stress and highly involved in research in her field. For more information, be sure to follow Dr. @dr.natashabhalla


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