It’s that wonderful time of year when new interns take their first steps into hospitals as practicing physicians One of us has just completed her intern year and the other quite a while back (but recently enough to still remember some of it), so we wanted to share some tips for the pediatric interns about to start this wonderful adventure.
1. Don’t be overly anxious (as a little anxiety is expected). Remember, medicine is a team sport, and the seniors and faculty and excited for your contribution to the team. Although you will be asked difficult questions at times and be placed in tough situations, you will always have plenty of support around you! You are joining a team and are an eagerly expected member. The faculty and seniors in July commonly volunteered to be there and want to help.
2. But be appropriately anxious. Adult learning research has shown that we absorb best in a setting of some mild stress. It’s akin to pushing yourself when training for a sport where that extra push in practice is what improves your ultimate performance at a competition. So while you do have a team willing to support you, it’s important to constantly strive to improve.
3. Be humble and honest. But to improve, you have to be honest about what you don’t know and humble enough to ask for help. A good rule of thumb: At the end of every day, list 2 to 3 things that you need to spend more time learning about. Also, we all struggle with not knowing what we don’t know, so ask a trusted senior to help you with this.
4. Ask questions and involve everyone. While we tend to see the faculty, fellows, and seniors as the sources of knowledge, very often, the nurse taking care of your patient knows him/her best, so definitely reach out. Pharmacists, therapists, and other members of the healthcare team can be great resources as well. Of course, families know their child best, and commonly, especially for parents of children with chronic medical issues, they know more about their child’s illness than anyone on the team. Ask away.
5. Be thankful. Children do not belong in the hospital, and for the vast majority of them, it is an uncommon event. This, of course, leads to the child and their loved ones being stressed which, while we may not acknowledge it consciously, leads to everyone on the team feeling this. What better way to help offset this than by thankfulness. Thank your team members for teaching you. Thank the nurses and ancillary staff for telling you about the patient and for taking care of them. Thank the families and children for trusting you and for choosing to get care at your institution.
6. Teach. While you may not realize it, you will know more about your patients than most members of the team. You will also know more about a medical subject than medical students and other students. Take the time to teach them. This not only is appreciated but also helps to solidify your own knowledge base and confidence. Also, have discussions with the nurses involved and explain why a certain plan was chosen and don’t forget to spend the time with families and patients doing the same. Having everyone on the same page and with some basic working knowledge about the rationale for a course of action will go a LONG way in creating a trusting relationship.
7. Build relationships. Taking the time to teach will definitely allow you to forge relationships with those noted above. One of the great joys of pediatrics is that it is a highly relationship-based specialty. Also, build relationships with your classmates; many will become lifelong friends.
8. Always remember who you are taking care of. We all get tired, feel sick (probably more in this field with all of the viral exposures), feel stressed or hungry, or many other things that can distract us from our duties as pediatricians. Remind yourself often of who you are taking care of: someone’s beloved child who they have now entrusted in part to you. It’s an amazing honor to be given. Be humbled by this, and let this drive you during those tougher days and moments.
9. Finally, enjoy! Yes, it’s going to be a tiring year, and there will be plenty of moments of angst and tears. But these will be offset by even more moments of seeing sick children get better, of figuring out a tough case, of bonding with your colleagues, of being thanked for a job well done, and, the best of all, having a child hug you as they leave the hospital or clinic while the parents give you that “thank you so much” little smile.
Medicine is a noble field, and yes, we are biased, but pediatrics is amazingly rewarding. Enjoy the ride and welcome to the family.
Gabriella Gonzales is a pediatric resident. Alexander Rakowsky is a pediatrician.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com