Saturday, September 05, 2009

New Interns

That time of year is here: the brand new interns ("baby interns", if you will) started a few weeks ago in the hospital. I have been looking forward to this day for nearly one year now, as last year I was on an outpatient rotation during the start of the academic year and thus did not get to interact closely with the new interns. It didn't take long, however, to realize why most senior residents dread this day.

I met my two new interns on a Sunday, a day on which our team was on call. So not only did these poor interns -- essentially just fourth-year medical students -- have to start their internship on a weekend, but they had to start on call and stay overnight in the hospital. It was a whole new world ... a whole new, brutal world that didn't care about weekends, holidays, or "after hours".

The rest of the day was spent orienting them to the hospital, describing the way things work in the hospital, and providing them with an overview of day-to-day operations. In addition I had to teach them how to use the VA computer system, which is intuitive and joyful to use once you know the basics, but those basics take some time to learn. Juggling all this while receiving annoying calls from the ER for patient admissions made for a very busy and oftentimes trying day. The day was an exercise in patience, disguised as a fresh start for a group of frightened newbies.

Most surprising, although it shouldn't have been, was watching the interns' clinical skills in action. Understandably, they had not interacted with patients in many months, nor had they made any sort of oral or written presentations in that same time. The minutes of the day where I wasn't teaching them how to order medications or learn the phone system, I had to work on how to present a basic H&P. And by "basics" I mean just that. I spent more than one sitting explaining how one first presents the history, then the exam, then labs, etc. Those basics.

On a final note, just when I was thinking the next day how it couldn't get any worse, of course it did. I soon met two very young guys who introduced themselves as my new third-year medical students. In case you are not familiar, that means they were fresh-as-can-be, had-never-set-foot-in-the-hospital-before, hearts-still-racing-from-waking-up-at-7am medical students. Interestingly, though, while at times the new interns seemed like seasoned pros compared to the new medical students, much of the time they were very similar: new, scared, learning, and above all overwhelmed.

Looking back, despite some of this grumbling, the mere novelty of the week and its participants made it an exciting one me. I am glad I was present to welcome the new interns and students, but it is not something I want to repeat as a resident. Hopefully, as a fellow, I will be slightly shielded from them ... by the poor residents.


Sara said...

I was on call my first night as an intern.

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