Summer is upon us, and with it comes the end of the academic year, graduations and the arrival of the newest crop of interns. Soon these fresh-faced physicians will enter into one of the most remarkable educational experiences of their medical careers: residency. Many of these soon-to-be-interns are looking to attendings now for advice on how to excel during (or survive through) the arduous first year of training. Suggestions like “always make time to read,” “ask for help when you need it,” and “don’t piss off the nurses” are evergreen. An untold number of similar pearls were passed on to me at the end of my fourth year of medical school. The tip that stuck out the most, however, wasn’t one about writing orders or time management or strategic napping. It was the warning that an upper-level resident gave me about what she called “the intern year breakdown.” “Look,” she told me. “Intern year sucks. At some point, you’re going to hate your job and yourself and you’re just going to want to stay in bed and cry all day. But hey. You’ll get through it.” She patted my arm and smiled at me. It provided little comfort.
Sure enough, my intern year was peppered with days where I did feel like hiding in the safety of my bed. Still, I and most of my co-interns and friends from medical school made it through the first half of the year relatively unscathed. Most of us ran on a combination of adrenaline, bewilderment, and caffeine (which seemed to have had a bit of a protective effect) for the first six months. However, as the days became shorter and the shine of a brand new medical degree wore off, we all became somber.
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