#Dearintern…tips for success that every surgical intern should know

09 Jul 2018
By Renee Hilton


Welcome to one of  the most wonderful vocations in the world.  We have the ability to heal, to comfort, and to cure. It is both humbling and rewarding to walk into an operating room with the knowledge that the patient has entrusted us with this responsibility.  Congratulations on taking the first steps toward being a surgeon! Here are some #TipsForNewDocs for success as you start out on your training:

You only get one first impression.  I was once told by a senior attending that people will only remember two things about your residency: how you start and how you finish.  You will start forming your reputation within your department on day one of your residency. Work hard, be polite, be available, be enthusiastic, and, most of all, be honest.  It is ok if you do not know how to do something… just say so, and someone will be happy to teach you.

Read! Your patients are counting on you knowing how to care for them. Your intern year will serve as the foundation of your surgical knowledge. Read so that you can build a strong one, and to do well on the ABSITE and your future board exams.

In the operating room, be a sponge.  Watch everything and everyone.  Pay attention to the small but often forgotten details.  Read about procedures before you go to the operating room, and try to watch online videos of cases whenever possible.  Scrub-in every chance you get. You may not be doing the big cases during your intern year, but the basics are the same for every case.  Approach the patient with an abscess with the same enthusiasm that you would a patient undergoing a Whipple.

Be nice to everyone; the golden rule is not just for kindergarten. Get to know the nurses, techs, janitors, and everyone in between.  Diversity is a crucial part of what makes our job so much fun, with no role in the hospital being more important than any other. Intern year is tough and at times you may want to snap. Don’t. Take a deep breath and remember that the person on the other end of the phone at 3 am is also tired and is calling for your help.

Professionalism. You are a professional now.  Show up looking the part. Dress to impress. Be punctual to clinics and the operating room. Complete notes, discharge summaries, and case and hour logs in a timely manner.  Respond to pages and emails in a timely manner.

Identify a mentor.  I have had multiple mentors at different stages of my career. These relationships and the advice I have received are my most valuable career assets.  Mentorship will be essential as you progress through residency and choose a specialty. See previous AWS blogs on the topic of mentorship for more advice.

Take care of yourself!  If you are not well, you will not be able to care for others.  This includes both physical and emotional wellness. According to the most recent 2018 Medscape National Report On Physician Burnout And Depression, nearly two-thirds of U.S. physicians report feeling burned out, depressed, or both.  If you are depressed or feeling overwhelmed or burned out, you are not alone. Talk to someone.  Get help early. Inquire about resources your program has available to residents struggling with emotional wellness. Additionally, the American College of Surgeons provides resources available to members. Make time for your friends and family and be sure to spend time doing things that make you happy. Remember, “Happiness is not a goal…it’s a by-product of a life well lived.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt

For more information on how to participate in a Tweetchat and other Twitter tips, here is a previous blog by Heather Yeo: http://blog.womensurgeons.org/medical-students/beyond-the-basics-of-tweeting/

The joint Tweetchat will take place 7/16/18, 8 pm EST. It is designed to help new interns in surgery to gain tips for success in surgery now and in the years to come. To participate, be sure to follow @womensurgeons and @RASACS as well as the moderator for this chat @KylaTerhune and to tag all of your tweets with the hashtags #AWSChat and #DearIntern

Dr. L. Renee Hilton is an Assistant Professor at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University Medical Center.  She is the Director of Bariatric Surgery as well as the Center of Obesity and Metabolism at Augusta University. She is also the Associate Program Director for the general surgery residency program. She completed her general surgery residency at Jackson Memorial Hospital at the University of Miami in Miami, Florida and then fellowship in bariatric and minimally invasive surgery at Yale University.  She serves in multiple leadership roles within the department including being the director of the residency surgical skills lab and Chair of the Surgical Simulation Committee. She currently resides and practices in Augusta, Georgia. You can find her on Twitter @reneehilton30 and Facebook.

Our blog is a forum for our members to speak, and as such, statements made here represent the opinions of the author and are not necessarily the opinion of the Association of Women Surgeons.

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