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5 tips for surviving July’s influx of new interns

Thinkstock | Monkey Business Images Ltd.

Thinkstock | Monkey Business Images Ltd.

It’s suddenly hot—really hot. Overnight, the breezy skies of June have transformed into the steamy dog days of July. Just like that, it’s finally fully summer.

The temperatures at work are rising, too. The first of July marked the yearly influx of a new host of interning doctors within America’s teaching hospitals—29,671 of them, to be exact. Of the roughly 5,000 hospitals in our country, about 22 percent are filling up with new first-years this month.

Remarks along the lines of, “Oh god, no…” and eye rolls are typical greetings to the new post-grad faces. It’s easy to get frustrated, as they walk clumsily through the halls like delirious patients suffering from heat stroke. Nevertheless, the reality is: they’re not going anywhere. So, this year, why not be a cool summer breeze for our new friends?

Now, here are five tips to keep your dealings with new interns niiiiice and chill:

1. Introduce yourself. Doctors in their first year of residency are notorious for approaching nurses with orders and requests before explaining who on earth they are. This drives us nuts; on a busy unit, with a million tasks, we trust no one when it comes to our patient’s care and/or privacy. So, beat the awkwardness and be assertive by saying, “Hello! We haven’t met yet. What’s your name?” In other words, bite your tongue—the temptation to be snarky can be on the strong side.

2. Congratulate them. “Huh? For what? They haven’t done anything yet,” you say. And yes, things are just getting started for them in the hospital. But remember, they just passed a huge milestone in their young lives—they graduated from medical school. Furthermore, not only did they graduate, they also qualified for your hospital’s residency program, which is a rigorous application process that many others don’t make it through. In other words, they deserve to be in the front lines with you!

3. Question constructively. All good nurses will instinctively question a doctor’s orders; we do this so we that can understand the reasons behind the care that we deliver. That being said, the same goes for our new interns. No doubt, the interns will throw you tasks that may make you giggle or even give you reason to huff. Instead of responding with an impatient reply, question them with teaching in your mind. Kindly tell them what it is they’re not understanding, or maybe even just missing, and point them in the direction of the orders that are best for the patient.

4. One-up them. When introducing yourself to new faces on the unit, never say, “So you’re the new intern?” This will make for an awkward situation, especially if you happen to be talking to the babyfaced attending physician that just moved to town. Instead, even if you know it isn’t true, give everyone you meet a good ol’ one-up. Ask the intern if he or she is a resident, and the resident if he or she is a third-year or a fellow. This casual conversational trick will send them a tiny jolt of self-esteem, which (don’t worry) they’ll quickly reign in when they admit that they’re a first-year.

5. Get friendly! No sharing deep, dark secrets of childhood in the call room, please. But remember, interns are people, too—very cool ones! They come from all over the world, they’ve gone to med school in cities you might want to visit someday and they have personalities and cultures that are worth knowing. Understanding their history will help you understand their communication styles, their learning curves and the kind of doctors they want to become. Plus, it will make work way more fun.

So, as the temperature rises on your unit and the number of new interns along with it, take a few chill pills and fan away the urge feel to heat up. Remember that we need these newbies, maybe not as much as they need us, but let’s face it—they’re the future of medicine.

This summer, it’s our responsibility and privilege to mold them into doctors worthy of taking care of our patients.

Amanda Anderson, RN, BSN, CCRN, became a nurse in 2007. She currently nurses in New York City, while studying in a dual master’s degree program at Hunter Bellevue School of Nursing. Her blog is called This Nurse Wonders, and she tweets as @12hourRN. Amanda blogs for The American Journal of Nursing‘s Off the Charts and for the Center for Health Media & Policy, where she is a graduate fellow. In her spare time, she can be seen zipping around the city on her bike, meeting friends and looking for art.

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