Top 5 Reason to Do an Internship

Committing to a one-year internship after graduation isn’t a major commitment (like buying a house, getting married, or making a small human), but it can affect your life and career trajectory.  These are my recommended top 5 reasons to do an internship.

1) You want to specialize.

This is the easiest consideration, so it goes first.  If you want to do a clinical specialty, it is theoretically possible to do so from clinical practice, but the challenges in doing so are substantial.  The traditional path is still the easiest: graduation -> internship -> residency.

2) You are unsure of your career path.

Even if you’re not SURE you want to specialize, pursuing an internship will keep that door open better than going out into practice.  If you think you may be interested in specializing or doing something other than general practice, an internship provides you with more options.  You COULD go into practice after the internship, do a specialty internship, do a residency, or maybe even go into a graduate program.  Staying in the academic system provides more flexibility.

3) You are scared of the real world.

It’s OK to be scared.  The real world is intimidating, and it’s OK to want to shelter in the confines of a program where you are more-or-less told what to do (or at least given significant guidance) for another year.  If you feel you didn’t get a great educational experience, or your clinical skills are subpar, an internship year may help your confidence.

4) You want to improve your clinical skills.

This is different from #3 because you acknowledge you will be an adequate new graduate, but you want to get GOOD.  Yes, every practice claims they will give you great mentorship, and maybe it will happen.  But there are also stories of a new grad showing up to a new job and being handed the keys as the owner leaves.  There are certainly bad internships, but most of them will give you direct mentorship with board-certified specialists.  That’s nothing to sneeze at when it comes to learning how to be a good doctor.  In a down market, an internship _may_ make you a better employment candidate.  In this market, though, it probably doesn’t matter, with the possible exception of some emergency practices that need a more experienced doctor as opposed to a new graduate to handle complex cases.

5) You like teaching.

I’ve been teaching since I was a green belt in karate at the age of 14.  I love teaching.  I haven’t always been good at it, but I’ve gotten better.  In an academic internship, you will have the opportunity to teach students, and that can be fun and very rewarding.  If you don’t do an internship, you will have opportunities to teach your technicians and maybe a visiting student, but it’s not the same immersive experience.  Being in an academic institution gives a different feel to all endeavors.  Although patient care is #1, the teaching mission is ever-present and provides a positive environment for inquiry, growth, and opportunities to teach.

Those are the top 5 reasons I would provide a student interested in doing an internship.  Do you agree with them?  Are there any reasons you have other than these?  Add them in the comments!

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