Starting out: 10 essential tips for your intern year

31 August 2021

By Jayne Molodynski, MPS Medicolegal Adviser

1. Know your limits

Never be afraid to ask for help. Always work within your competencies and if you are unsure about anything, ask.

2. Find out the basics

Make sure you know your way around the hospital and find out about out-of-hours facilities, such as key codes and canteen opening hours. It sounds obvious, but it’s no joke when you finally get to go for that sandwich, only to find the canteen closed at 4pm!

3. Know the ropes

Make sure you are familiar with your hospital’s guidelines, for example, in relation to note keeping. In some hospitals, records are now completely electronic so you need access to a code or a swipe card to get into the system. See if there is a handbook you can read, or if there are any notes published online. 

4. Get organised

It can be a good idea to carry a notebook to jot down useful numbers and information. However, remember that due to confidentiality, if you jot down a patient’s notes, you must make sure you securely destroy them before leaving the hospital. 

5. Make an impression

Be aware that you will need support, so it is important to have a good relationship with members of the team, especially nursing staff. Introducing yourself and establishing a good relationship from the start will make things easier. 

6. Get on top of paperwork

Make sure you’re up-to-date with paperwork right from the beginning; get assessments filled in as you go along – don’t leave them all to the end. Some of the key meetings need to take place in your first few weeks of the job. 

7. Communicate

Arrange to meet senior staff when you start on call and get to know them. If there are problems, be open and ask for feedback. At the end of a shift, talk through anything you found difficult, and consider how you could do it differently.

8. Work as a team

Don’t be afraid of looking stupid. You are new to the job and will need support from your peers and colleagues. 

9. Be on the ball 

Make sure you are up-to-date with national guidelines and the Medical Council guidelines. Take a look at the eight Domains of Good Professional Practice as devised by the Medical Council.

10. Check your rota

Look at the on-call rota and find out what your shifts will be. Find out how to access bleep numbers, and the numbers for your team. I used to write them in my Oxford handbook and carry them around.