Questions to ask when selecting medical interns

Spring season is still many months away, but residency programs are in early heat as selection committees across the country buckle down to nominate the next batch of interns for the upcoming academic year.

Spread across these institutions’ tables one may find headshots, board scores, recommendations and interviewer comments of top candidates interested in training at their respective programs. Often, faculty members of esteemed medical centers will have only a few hours of actual face-time with each applicant before deeming them more or less suitable for the training program among the several hundred other hardworking medical graduates applying for the same position.

Selection committees: we as residents do not envy your task, and we are confident that you know what you are doing.

But we do want to send out a friendly reminder.

Despite the newly restricted work-hours, the majority of our lives as residents still take place in the hospital working alongside our fellow colleagues.  And truth be told, most of the week and weekends involve working all day only to come home to sleep long enough to be able to start up again the following morning.   Being the social creatures that we are, this gives us only one main cohort to carouse with during some of the busiest years of our lives: that’s right, the people you handpick to join our daily grind.

As someone under annual contract, we as residents dare not tell you how to do your jobs.  In fact, most of us are quite impressed with the genuinely amicable and engaging coworkers you bestowed upon us the previous year.  So keep it up.

And as you do, remember to ask yourself the following questions:

  • After a dozen or so hours on your feet, would you enjoy light conversation with candidate ‘X’ as you both spend evening hours documenting patient notes?
  • Would this candidate not only recognize the frazzled hair, ashen-faced and tight-lipped expression of co-residents in times of need but also go out of his or her way to lighten their load?
  • Does this candidate have a tendency to ask about other peoples’ days and are genuinely interested in the responses he or she receives?

Although it often happens, we do not expect to make new life-long friends.  But we do expect to work with individuals that are not only focused on becoming well-trained physicians but also admired colleagues.

Over the next month, you along with several hundred medical training programs across the nation will develop a list of candidates that will magically appear later this year as the next generation of deer-in-headlight interns.  As you make this final selection, please recognize that funded after-work activities and ice cream socials do not make a community out of a collection of ambitious individuals being constantly pushed to grow as professionals.

It will be the responsibility of these impressive medical graduates that you so deliberately vouch for to continue the sense of collegiality that we residents have fostered and maintained amidst our constant individual struggle to professionally thrive.

So please, choose wisely.

Brian J. Secemsky is an internal medicine resident who blogs at The Huffington Post.  He can be reached on Twitter @BrianSecemskyMD.

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  • http://twitter.com/DoctorKSays Doctor K Says

    The choosing of residents and fellows is always complex. There is an excellent book and online quiz- Strength Finders 2.0 that defines 34 strengths from the Gallup Organization. It would be interesting to have all applicants take this test (which is positive only) and see if these strengths are played out well in residency.

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