Tips for New Student Interns: Part 1

Tomorrow exactly a year ago (5 August) I wrote this post. I was a brand-spanking-new Student Intern (SI) and as a year group, we were excited and scared as heck.

Now I am on a weeklong break (my first since December) and in just a short week, the new SIs will be joining us. I’ll be writing some posts this week about things I have learned as an SI and that the noobs might find useful. Not because I’ve got it all figured out, but because I’ve survived thus far… even though I doubted the possibility often during the past year.

First: Juniors (and seniors). Honestly, if I think about it, the people who meant most to me during my junior years of med school were the senior students. My goal has been to be a better SI than the ones I have had – whether the ones I had were good or bad.

Source Image by DrAssenof, click for link
Source Image by DrAssenof, click for link

First and Second Years:

Since they don’t do clinical rotations, you aren’t bound to have much contact with them, but if you do have the opportunity to do so, I encourage it. In my ENT and Anaesthetics rotations last year, I signed up to have a first year shadow me in hospital, and it was a pretty good experience for me. I even took her for some sessions in the clinical skills lab.

Just a few weeks ago, I met a first year at an event organized by our Surgical Society. The way her eyes widened when she heard I was an elusive final year, and the discussion we had after left me feeling light and… happy. The one hand washes the other – I guarantee you that they leave feeling hopeful, but you also leave feeling energized.

Third Years

There seems to be a bit of an antagonistic relationship between third years and SIs. You don’t have to like them, but it really helps when the relationship is pleasant (and then it’s less of a pain waking up in the mornings). I could write a book about thirds, but I’ll stick to this: third years know nothing, and when they know nothing, they are of no use in the clinical team. If you teach them stuff, they are more useful to the team, and they are also happier. No third year wants to get to the end of a rotation and not be able to do bloods or examine a patient properly – and you don’t want to be running around doing all of the work, either. It helps a lot when you don’t ask them to do all your work though – remember, they are also there to learn.

I wrote a thing about the honour of teaching third years.
I wrote a thing about the honour of teaching third years.

One other thing: some third year groups are pretty big-headed and will go around telling everyone that their sixth years are “useless” and never around. It’s a pretty good idea to make clear to them at the beginning of the rotation when you have tutorials and what YOUR learning objectives are. For example, in Trauma, third years are supposed to do calls in front room and learn to do sutures and primary surveys. YOUR duty is to learn advanced procedures like placing ICDs and assisting in theatre. Big difference.

Fourth and Fifth Years

These can become your real allies. (Obviously, the new SIs ARE the current fifth years). They know a bit more, so they’re useful in the ward, but you can also help each other with learning. On my recent Internal Medicine rotation, I asked my fourth years to tell me what they learned in tutorials, and then I tried to teach them a bit as well. I just wish we had done it more formally. I highly suggest that. You could also designate a specific day (our Fridays were quieter unless we were on call) for teaching each other.

And I wrote a thing about not telling people that they are bad doctors.

Fellow SIs:

You can have a great symbiotic relationship with your peers, but this is actually the most challenging one of the lot. It’s weird, but SIs become very selfish with their sources. If you can get a group of friends who want to study together and share resources, it really helps – but in all honesty, I’ve found that to be pretty hard. That’s sad, guys. Share more. It’s called #FOAMed! (In these first few months, latch on to a sixth year SI that’s nice and get tips and advice from them. And make yourself useful. :P)


Another contentious one. I’ve had awesome interns and awful interns. Some of them have used me as their skivvy and then had the bloody cheek to say I have attitude when I commented on it. Others have been great in teaching me procedures I didn’t yet know and, more valuably, talking about Internship (which I’ll be doing next year) and giving me tips.

Registrars (Residents):

The student-registrar dynamic changes a bit during SI. They expect more from you, but they also treat you more like a human. If you request a tutorial on a certain subject, they don’t think you’re gunning – they think you’re working hard to be the best doctor you can be. Don’t feel like you’re sucking-up during SI. Do what you can to get the most possible teaching.

Let me know if there are any specific topics or questions you’d like me to cover in the comments!


  1. The Rider says:

    Hang in there, you are going to be a very good doctor. Rêrig!

  2. Renate says:

    Yay, SIC tips! 🙂 I was hoping you would write something like this…Can’t wait for the next posts.

    Would you write something on study tips for SIC? Things are just so much more self-directed, and the level of knowledge expected is so much more and can you tell I’m kind of hyperventilating here?

    I’m in week 6 of SIC now (psych rotation by the way, your post on the MSE was so useful! Thanks.) and despite the hyperventilation moments, I’m really enjoying it. I think SIC is really when med school becomes awesome(er).

    Enjoy your holiday.

    1. I’m glad you liked them! I just posted something about study tips. I hope they are mildly useful! Certainly more self-directed, but you will be totally fine 🙂
      I agree about med school getting awesome(er) now. It does. You build confidence and also you get annoyed enough to want to spread your wings into the real world, which is kind of a good thing – heh.
      Keep well!

  3. nisha360 says:

    I’m not a SI but I think we can get along with everyone if we just make a point of making them feel heard and understood.

    1. Thanks Nisha – that’s wise advice for any profession!

  4. harveylisam says:

    It’s really interesting to learn the dynamics of the various levels of your system – so different from ours, but of course there are similarities 🙂

    1. Can you tell me which is the biggest difference and the greatest similarity? I’m intrigued 🙂 I’ve been finding that my understanding of the North American medical training is actually not very accurate all the time.

      1. harveylisam says:

        I guess just the structure – it seems like your third years are like our clerks at the beginning of our core rotations (so me last year, basically), and the sixth years are like the junior residents. It seems to have a very similar dynamic.

        And as for the difference, we don’t have the whole 4th and 5th years in between since our program is only 4 years, so that’s all a bit muddled haha. And then you have your interns and residents, which is a whole other level.

        There are so many of you! 😛

      2. Haha, yes there are many of us! 😛 But we don’t all rotate at the same time and place all the time, so I think it probably isn’t as busy as it sounds.

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