How to make the best of your internship year
For most soon to be interns, you were a senior vet student just a few weeks ago. At the start of your veterinary internship, you are expected not only to function as an independent doctor but in some cases also to teach the new students that started clinics. Sounds scary, huh?
Even if you don’t want to admit it, it is. It was for us and it was for our internmates, too. However, we’ve provided a handy little guide to help you prepare for your internship, and hopefully keep self-doubt at bay! You’ve got this!
1. Remember – an internship is a training program
Internships are training programs, and you’re not expected to be perfect. You’re expected to be prepared every day, and to learn as much as you can in one short year. Just like during your vet school senior year, the more you put into it, the more you get out. You’ll make mistakes; probably quite a few. Learn from them! The expectation levels are obviously much higher compared with your senior year. After all, you’re a doctor now!
2. You’ll have mentors and backup
Just like in vet school, you’ll have mentors and backup for your cases. Of course, this will vary with the internship program you matched with. Overall, programs at academic institutions will offer more mentorship. However, there are great private practice programs that are similar, if not superior, to some academic programs.
You’ll lack confidence in the beginning. This is totally normal! Don’t let that affect you and bring you down. You can’t be paralyzed by fear or self-doubt. Make sure you always have a diagnostic and treatment plan for your patients. Look things up if you don’t know the answer, and seek guidance from people who do. Just like in your senior year, you’ll have backup (most of the time) to help you steer in the right direction.
Since we’re talking about confidence, whatever you do, don’t be overconfident. Thinking that you know more than you do and acting like a know-it-all only leads to one thing: medical errors that will hurt your patients. This doesn’t apply only to internships, but to all stages of your career. Be humble and approach every experience with an open mind and willingness to learn.
4. You’ll be tired
You thought senior year was hard and that you were tired all the time? Think again. You’ll be working 60 to 80 hour weeks. Depending on the program, maybe even more than that. My overnight rotation consisted of seven consecutive shifts from 5 pm to 8 am (Friday to Friday). I was happy if I could leave the hospital by 9:30 in the morning. As you can see, that means 105 hours of scheduled time on clinics during that rotation.
Luckily, not all rotations will be the same! You’ll also feel tired in the beginning until you adjust to your new internship routine. Make sure you take time to sleep when you have the chance, and practice good self-care!
5. Don’t neglect your wellbeing
This is crucial! You’ll be working long hours, eating poorly and will have little to no time to exercise. Try to reserve some time to meal prep, relax, and exercise.
Start with easy to achieve goals! 10min of exercise 3 times a week is better than no exercise for a whole year! Don’t set yourself for failure from the very beginning! And while you might feel like you should always be focusing on work, simply forget all of that every once in a while and watch your favorite TV shows! Netflix, Prime Video (affiliate link), your pick! Also, check out these meditation tools!
You’ll learn a lot through the many cases you’ll see over the year. You’ll also have to do a significant amount of reading. That includes both primary literature (peer-reviewed journal articles) and textbooks. You’ll have access to most journals and some textbooks through your internship program. We put together a list of our recommended textbooks that any small animal veterinarian should consider purchasing in case you’d like your own reference material. Check it out!
7. Focus on patient care and quality of medicine
Yes, I know this applies to everything we do as veterinarians. If you don’t focus on this, something needs to change ASAP! Our patients are the reason why we do what we do, and pursuing advanced training means that we’ll be able to offer them advanced care. Being overtired and overworked can lead to apathy – make sure you always keep your patients in mind, and do right by them.
8. It will be challenging
If advanced training programs are not challenging from an intellectual standpoint, then there’s no point in pursuing them. You’ll be asked many questions and will need to be ready to discuss cases and justify why you made certain clinical decisions. The whole point of these programs is to stimulate your brain and with that, to learn a lot. There’s no more passive learning sitting in a classroom!
9. You probably will want to quit at some point
This happens to everyone. There will be at least one time during your internship where you’ll consider quitting. The daily stress, compassion fatigue, difficult clients, patient loss, and second-guessing your career choices can really get to you. Hang in there and stay focused!
10. Don’t focus too much on residencies
If you’re considering pursuing a residency, don’t stress too much about it at the very beginning. Try to identify potential letter writers based on your schedule and desired specialty. If you have elective rotations, try to schedule those before the Match deadlines.
Then, focus on learning a lot and remember that letters of recommendation are crucial and the single most important factor to landing a residency. You’ll want to impress your potential references and get stellar letters! If you have great patient care, practice good medicine, have good personal skills and are on top of your patients, this should occur naturally.
11. Have fun, and learn a lot!!
You’ll make great friends with your internmates and together you’ll get through it! Always focus on your patients and learn as much as you can! Remember that learning is an active process, not passive!
We hope this post helps you prepare for your internship and gives you an idea of how to make the best of it!
Remember to check out our ebook on advanced training and the Matching Program. It contains tons of helpful tips and offers everything you need to know about it! You can find it here.
Hit us up if you have comments or want to share additional advice if you’ve gone through an internship! Simply email us or comment below!
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