10 things I wished I knew before my first shift as an intern

  1. Do your simplest tasks first, knock them out and don’t wait to do anything!
  2. Always push yourself. Being comfortable is comfortable, but this is not how you learn. Always try to pick up one more patient, challenge yourself to do things more efficiently. In the end books do not teach you how to survive in this specialty, seeing more is knowing more.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. That is what everyone is here for. Emergency medicine is a team sport. If you are not comfortable doing a procedure, aren’t able to do the procedure, just ask for help.
  4. On that same note, don’t be afraid to ask in general. This is your time to learn, and this is your moment to pick your seniors/attendings brain. Try to figure out what their thought process is, and what their style of practice is and why.
  5. Hydrate and stay well hydrated. Bring a bottle, fill it before your shift. Drink at least 1-2 of these. Also visit a restroom every once and a while. Full bladder = agitation.
  6. Request off for things well in advance. Or else you won’t be off and will have to beg people to cover your shifts. Look in advance for weddings, birthdays, other special things during the year and request off now.  Seriously, go do it. If your program pays for you to go to a conference make sure you ask off for this as well.
  7. Stay on top of your administrative duties. They are no fun, but they are even less fun 3 months from now when your program director is angry and your classmates have to cover your shift because you don’t have your login ready in time. Log everything as soon as you can- procedures, ultrasounds, competencies, etc. When you log into your work station at the beginning of your shift also open up the logging system your program uses so you can log right away. Stalling = lost opportunities.
  8. Find out if your state has a health information exchange portal and or a prescription drug monitoring. program and register STAT. This is not only clinically helpful, you will look like a rock star if you are able to inform your team of that recent narc script or CT scan performed at Across The Street hospital.
  9. Find a mentor. Be a mentor. Find an attending and/or senior with shared interests and a compatible personality to help you with career advise, personal life balance, etc. These relationships can last a lifetime, and can lead to great things in the future. Give that back to an intern next year or a medical student you get along with. It is one of the most rewarding things you will do.
  10. Be nice to everyone. Nurses, the cleaning staff, the lady at the parking lot booth. You never know when these people might save your life someday. Plus it makes your shift more fun when you know everyone. Ask your consultants to help out with procedures- they can teach you how to do things differently that are useful when you are on your own one day. Teach them some. Karma and such.

Written by: Bennett Myers, M.D. | Edited by: Maite Huis in ‘t Veld, M.D. | June 23rd, 2015

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