How to start an internship: 8 tips that’ll get you started right!

Since I started studying medicine I got to know numerous different work environments. I counted up to twenty different internships, hospitations and rotations, most of them lasting only a couple of weeks. They enable you to get to know different fields but also require you to integrate you fast, if you want to be taught something. If you want to learn something during your internship, you need a plan:


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  1. Accept the fact that It’s your responsibility to integrate yourself. In most cases, nobody is going to take your hand and show you around. If somebody does, great! If not, that’s just the way it is. The sooner we accept this, the more we’ll learn. So have a plan.
  2. Introduce yourself to everybody at the right point of time. I’ve really screwed this one up. One time I introduced myself to one guy DURING rounds, and was asked to be quiet. Not a good idea… So wait for the right point of time and don’t interrupt anyone to introduce yourself.
  3. Be on time. Trust me, nothing says more: “I don’t care about this internship!!” than coming in late. (Don’t ask me how I know this…) So be five minutes early, remember you’ll need time to change, find the right room and all that. If you are actually early in many cases that’ll give you a chance to smalltalk. Also be on time for meetings, rounds, conferences and procedures. You should never arrive after the attending.
  4. Have your stuff ready: Wear the clothes you are supposed to wear, and bring the gear you need.
    You will always need a nametag (Don’t expect that it will be handed to you during a welcome ceremony, just have one ready) paper and a pen, some money, a pen-light and a stethoscope. Everything else you need, you can find out. Since you are not the first person who is doing an internship there, there are people you can ask what you’ll need. Or call the doc a couple of days before the start.
  5. Be prepared. Get information about the institution you are going to work in. What’s their specialty? What kind of patient’s do they treat? What kind of procedures are they doing? Read about the diseases they treat and the procedures they perform. That will help you to ask great questions that can only be answered from the guy who works there. Remember you are not doing a practical so you learn things you didn’ want to read before. The practical has the function of putting things to practice that you’ve read before!

    BTW: Maybe this internship is your opportunity to learn a specific new skill. Here is how to prepare for that. 
  6. Participate actively in the workflow and be of help to your mentor. In most situations a mentor or some kind of go-to-guy will be assigned to you. He is the one who can teach you the most.
    Try not to be a burden to him but be of assistance. For that you have to be really attentive of how things are handled around here. Hook a patient up to a monitor, prepare devices you’ll need during a procedure, get the files you need for rounds or if everything else fails: Get him coffee and chocolate. If you save him time, he’s got time to teach you something. (During my whole radiology rotation of 4 months the X-ray techs loved me, because I brought a pack of coffee of 4$, a hint some guy gave me)
  7. Ask smart questions, that show that you’ve done your homework. I can tell by one or two questions a student asks, whether she’s prepared or not. Don’t ask too many, and none just to ask questions. I’ve had interns who asked 20 questions during 10 minutes, just to be perceived as interested. You’re interested, I get it, but we still have to get some work done!
  8. Smile. That always helps…
If you obey the rules above, you’re off to a great internship and you’ll not only learn a ton but also have a good time.
Question: What’s the first thing you do when entering a new work environment? What do you expect of someone who joins your team? Please leave a comment!


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