The 'July Effect': Tips for New Interns

Christine Garcia, MD, MPH


June 26, 2013

In This Article

Simple Steps for Success

As we interns approach the end of our first year of residency, we can pat ourselves on the back that we survived for the most part unscathed. During our recent intern retreat, we reminisced like seasoned doctors on our successes and our near-failures, and all the hilarious stories in between. Soon we will be looking at the new crop of interns, staring back at us with naive eyes filled with self-doubt -- the look we all had 1 year ago. As we move on to becoming senior residents, we are now faced with new challenges of becoming teachers to interns and leaders to our teams, whether it's running code teams or managing hospital floors.

On the first day of my internship, someone had written on the white board in the residents' lounge, "July 1: Goal of the day: Don't kill anyone." In an effort to help new interns (and any students who will be new to the wards), I've compiled some advice based on my own recent experience and that of several colleagues.

Be Organized

In the first few weeks, you won't be expected to crack cases like Dr. House. Your biggest challenge initially is getting organized. You must be able to handle a massive amount of data on many patients. Use whatever system works for you, whether it's your own handwritten notes or premade spreadsheets.

Checklists are a must! While sometimes tedious, lists assure you that things will get done. Make 2 boxes for every patient order to make sure you place the order, then check off the second box when you review the results. Figure out your own system to make sure you don't miss anything.

Ask for Help When You Need It

There are 2 kinds of interns: those who ask, and those who do not. I've been warned by senior residents to worry more about the interns who don't ask questions, whether it's out of fear of looking stupid or personal pride. So, if you don't know something, just ask. Chances are, your senior resident has had a similar experience and can help guide you through it.

Be Honest

If you don't know something, don't lie. As an intern, you aren't expected to know everything. You won't get into trouble for not doing something, but you will get into trouble for lying about doing something. If you don't know the answer, don't try to "BS" your way through.

Show Respect for the Nurses

Nurses can be your best resource or your worst enemy. They have seen new interns come and go, year after year (and they generally dread July 1). Put your ego aside and realize that at this point, they know more than you do. They aren't bothering you just to be a nuisance. If they are concerned about a patient, you should be, too.

This time of the year is terrifying for nurses because people in charge of placing orders for their patients may not know what they are doing. You have to learn how to crawl before you walk, and in these first few weeks of residency, you might be barely crawling and need all the help you can get. Stay humble.

Be Nice to Everyone

This may be misconstrued as "kissing up," but being a genuinely nice person goes a long way. Don't throw people under the bus. Although you may not get along with everyone, don't let patient care suffer because of petty stuff. You are all on the same team. If you see someone struggling and you have time, help out. Take the time to get to know the people you work with inside and outside of the hospital. These people will become your local support system.


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