Making the most of your intern year

01 September 2021

Whether you have always dreamt of working in a particular specialty, or have not yet decided, your intern year will introduce you to a host of career options. 

It is up to you to maximise the opportunities and thrive on the challenges that will confront you. By keeping your portfolio up-to-date you will critically appraise each specialty and begin to identify what specialty you want to work in.


Your internship must comprise a minimum of 12 months, which should normally be consecutive, of which at least three months must be spent in medicine in general and at least three months in surgery in general. 

Interns may also be employed for not less than two months and not more than four months in other specialties, eg. emergency medicine, paediatrics, and general practice. 

As part of your training you will:

• Participate in practice-based training

• Be exposed to a broad range of clinical cases appropriate to your rotation

• Participate in all appropriate medical activities relevant to your training, including on-call duties at an appropriate level

• Exercise the degree of responsibility and clinical decision-making appropriate to your growing competency, skills, knowledge and experience

• Work as an integral part of a team composed of a variety of disciplinary backgrounds.


• You must have regular and constructive feedback and assessment sessions with a trainer or supervisor who is aware of your knowledge and performance, and who can verify your satisfactory progress.

• As well as passing all your obligatory examinations, including any exit examinations or other summative assessment at the end of your intern year, you must achieve
a satisfactory performance in any assessment required or administered by the Medical Council, including any assessment of communication skills.

• For more information see the Medical Council’s Guidelines on Medical Education and Training for Interns

Getting published

Voice your opinion 
Got something to say? Writing a letter to a medical journal, or writing to a newspaper on a hot medical topic, can be a good way of getting your name in print without the need for heavyweight research to back up your opinions.
Most national newspapers have much bigger circulation and readership figures than medical  journals, so it’s worthwhile keeping up with public health issues and taking any chance to comment. There’s a lot of competition to get letters published, so getting yours in print can go on your CV as a real achievement.
Keep it real
As a new doctor, you are going through some unique experiences, seeing and doing things that most people never get a chance to do. You are also in a profession that is endlessly fascinating to the public (just look at the number of medical dramas on TV).

You have a wealth of subjects to write about, from your first real patient to the challenges of dealing with distressed relatives. Of course, you will need to approach all these topics with sensitivity and make sure you never breach patient confidentiality.
Bag yourself a blog
Less formal than a diary, and easier to get published than a journal article, a weblog has the added advantage that you can make it anonymous (although you should still be aware of confidentiality, fact-checking and libel laws; see opposite). A regular blog will be useful if you ever want to try your hand at writing a column, feature or advice page. Write about anything, from filling in your e-portfolio to the romantic difficulties posed by life as a new doctor, and see if you can spark some online debates!
However, this comes with a word of warning. Medical Protection has seen doctors face complaints over unwise commentary. You should always write as if you can be identified, never drop your standards of professionalism, and don’t say anything that you wouldn’t be happy to put your name to, or say face-to-face.
Don’t get carried away
Even one-off mistakes, in circumstances such as breaches of patient confidentiality, plagiarism, poor attitude or alcohol misuse, could harm your chances of obtaining substantive registration and your future career. Here are a few pitfalls to be aware of:

> Patient confidentiality always applies. For example, journals often require that everyone who submits articles or photos containing medical details has written consent from the patient, whether or not the patient is named in the article or is identifiable from the photos.

> Check all your facts. The rules of publishing mean that you could fall foul of defamation law (harming someone’s reputation) – not to mention damaging your own career prospects – if you publish incorrect or potentially damaging information about people, whether in hard copy or online.

> Don’t write about anything that might affect your reputation as a doctor, eg. excessive drinking, drugs or the wilder side of hospital social life. A career in medicine brings many privileges, and also responsibility – you should set out to be a role model from now on.

> Always include references for any quotes or information gained from other publications or authors.
Plagiarism, or passing off others’ work as your own, is severely frowned-upon and, in serious cases, could even lead to your being subjected to fitness-to-practise proceedings.