[POLL] Internship Applications: Which Factors Do You Consider?

One of our classmates made this... and this date-count is from a few days ago...!
One of our classmates made this… and this date-count is from a few days ago…!

There are fewer than 200 days left to graduation, and my class is beginning the application process for our Internship positions next year. As Interns we will be the most junior of doctors, and to some extent still be considered to be “in training”, BUT we will be graduates earning real money (and with real responsibilities) – wahoo!

We don’t have a big program like the Match in the USA/Canada. Instead, we have to list our top five choices for Internship, with as many “motivating” factors as possible (people with kids and spouses in the area tend to get preference) and hope for the best. Each hospital has only a certain number of spots available for students from each med school, so it’s quite a strategic things as well.

If you don’t get placed in one of your first five choices, you get “second rounded” – and those are usually the spots left open that other people didn’t want. So the ideal is to avoid that scenario.

I know where I will be applying for my first choice, and I’m excited about it. There is a reasonably good chance that I will get it. It is my hometown, where I grew up and went to school, where I shadowed in the hospitals before deciding to study medicine, where I observed my first deliveries and where I did an elective. I do also have some motivating factors for my application.

From A Cartoon Guide to Becoming a Doctor – click image for link.

But I do still have to write four other choices down, and I was wondering which factors should be taken into account. There isn’t really any other hospital I want to work at for Internship specifically, and as much as I have to write down four other choices, it would also be a very bad move to write a place down as a place-holder when I would hate to go there.

Please answer the polls below and tell me which (max 3) of these factors you would consider most. If you have the time or inclination, feel free to elaborate in the comments.

I look forward to hearing your responses! Whether you are a med student, a current final year, an Intern, a doctor long past Internship, or even in no way attached to the medical field, I am interested to see what people think.


  1. kmterry says:

    As a rising 4th year medical student in the US, I’m starting to weigh factors in a similar way now in considering various programs for our residency match. I chose: 1) Presence of good specialists — I don’t know if you intern generally, get to specialize later, what your system is, but if you’re not certain what you want to do, a diversity of good examples to learn from is essential, and even if you DO know, you want good mentors at the very least in your field; 2) Tutorials & structured learning opportunities — kind of like #1. You’re still learning, and while (at least for me) a lot of the learning that sticks is that which you have to create on your own, I find that often I don’t even know what I don’t know, and a bit of structure helps to frame my learning experience; and 3) Beautiful area. We may disagree on what it is, but we all ought to be in someplace we enjoy, that rejuvenates us, inspires us, delights us. I like rocky seashores, green farmlands, and wooded hills, my friends go for sandy beaches and bright city lights, and my husband loves remote rugged mountains.

    Safe environment would have been my #4 — it’s not even something I think about, I’ve never felt unsafe at work. Family/friends nearby I would like to consider highly…but it’s not at the top of my list, as it puts too many constraints.

    Good luck! I can’t wait to hear how things turn out for you!

    1. Thank you for sharing! It seems that a lot of respondents agree with your choices, especially structured learning opportunities. I agree – I’m keenly aware of the fact that I have a lot left to learn and I desperately need to know that I will have the opportunity to learn with good supervision. A beautiful area is important to me too. Thanks for stopping by and your advice!

  2. KokkieH says:

    You could always come to Kroonstad. I can show you the sights. All…three of them 😉 (Though I read somewhere a few years ago that our hospital had lost its training status, so perhaps not.)

    But seriously, I would recommend you put Steve Biko hospital in Pretoria on your list. I’ve been there twice already for counselling training and am returning again the week after next and every time I’m astounded at that place. It’s has many of the problems common in state hospitals, but from what I’ve seen I’d be willing to be a patient there myself.

    1. I haven’t seen Kroonstad on any lists, so it may have lost its status indeed.
      I have quite a few friends who are keen on Steve Biko (and they are glad to hear some good about it). I myself am not that keen to head Gauteng-side, but I’ll keep your recommendation in mind.

  3. Renate says:

    Whoa. As a current med student at UP I would not put Steve Biko on your list. It might look lovely from the outside, but the truth is you’re going to spend two years doing paperwork!

    1. Haha. Sounds like it is like most tertiary hospitals… the interns in Cape Town area also get stuck doing paperwork. It does appeal to some people though because it means they won’t be thrown in the deep-end with regards to skills. But not really what one dreams of doing while studying eh 😛 I think most interns end up doing some paper work, but a balance is ideal.

      1. Renate says:

        Yup, unfortunately paperwork comes with the job, doesn’t it? Another thing to consider about Gauteng is the oh so lovely e-tolls! (can you hear the sarcasm here?) Probably not a deal breaker, but definitely something to think about when planning one’s finances.

      2. Ugh. E-tolls. I can’t even.

  4. TrishaDM says:

    Wow! You are going to be done soon! Very exciting.
    For me, proximity to family was a big deciding factor because we had been living on an island that was too far to visit except twice a year and where I was picking the place for 5 years, being nearby (or at least more easily accessible to home-home was important). The school I went to only has a couple other people I went to med school with and none I was particularly close to, so friends wasn’t a big deciding factor, although they do help (there were days I wished I went where they did or vice-versa). I am glad that I did my internship/residency in a place I did do an elective at, so I was not completely in the dark about where things were (although still disadvantaged compared to local med students). Teaching is really important and it is good to know that there is some sort of structure, otherwise I find people get lost in just providing service.
    Good luck choosing. 🙂

    1. Wow, so much to consider! Thanks for sharing how you went about it. Family being nearby is big for me too… which is why I really hope I get my first choice. My best friends at med school aren’t in my year group so I can’t really consider them that much either (unless I stay at my school… which I don’t really want to do, hah).

  5. peace says:

    4 of my close friends are interns now. They all seemed “happy” when they were in a hospital where doctors are keen to teach. I noticed they were more “relaxed”when they were serving in the same department. Funny enough 2 of them now are together in a peripheral hospital in a very quite area, but they are bored and thier spirits are not as it used to be. Nothing to do they keep complaining. “No patients”. ( I’m trying to persue them to apply for the USMEL. We don’t need it, but it’ll help thier morale). This of course tease the one who is working in a very busy center in her town. She complained that she is tired most of the time, but then she text telling us about the interesting cases she saw.

    My prof said, do your internship in a center where the people who will have a say in your residency application acceptance are working. Or at least with people who can write you a heavy recommendation letter. If you have no research, then use part of your internship to do so.

    1. I really like your prof’s recommendation – it is a good one! I probably won’t get accepted to a place that has a say in residency applications, but I will aim for one that can write a good letter. I had not thought of doing research in Internship – it’s a fantastic idea!!!

      Thanks for sharing about your friends. I think we will always yearn to be more busy when it is quiet, and less busy when it’s hectic. It’s a hard choice. But getting them to take the USMLE is a great idea, and will keep them occupied!

  6. harveylisam says:

    It’d be good to be somewhere where you had family or friends nearby, just so you had a bit of an existing support system. But it’s not a deal breaker! Also, I think if it’s a small hospital where you’ll have more responsibility, it would be great for learning (but probably scary haha).

    1. Yeah, I definitely feel that way. I think your first year of being a doctor is scary as heck and having some family nearby can soften the blow.
      As for a small hospital, I’m aiming for something that isn’t so big that I’ll be doing scut/paperwork all day, but not so small that I will be entrusted TOO much!

  7. MirMedArt says:

    I may not be in medical school yet and a world away in the US, but the way I see it you ARE still training as an intern. So you want the best possible learning experience, with great specialists in the areas you’re interested and even better training opportunities. Beautiful area, safety, etc is all filler. You’re there to learn to be the best doctor available, if you need to work in Fallujah to get there, you do it because it’s all about your future patients. Then again I wanna join the military as a doc so there’s that.. Haha

    1. Thanks! You are correct in that one is still training as an intern. Safety is a pretty big deal for me though because the situation at some South African hospitals is not something I can deal with right now. Wow, a military doc! I was hoping for that as well, long ago. But then I realised that trauma surgery is not something I enjoy that much. I love watching shows about it, and reading about it, and even learning about it… but doing it? Doesn’t get my adrenaline racing the way I hoped it would. Weird, huh.

  8. Newfoundland MD says:

    George Provincial Hospital 😉 I did my internship there in 1985. Perfect mix – good specialty support, experienced Medical Officers, and you certainly didn’t push forms / paper all the time – perfect hands on balance…

    1. That was actually one of my top 5 choices! But it is so popular and has very few posts that usually go to married couples, so… I don’t think I have a big chance of getting that spot! But I’ll be applying there for community service when the time comes too.

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