Top 5 Reason to Not Do an Internship

I make no secret of the fact that I think most new graduates are better off doing an internship than not.  However, there are some circumstances where I think an individual should NOT do an internship.

1) You have family obligations.

Your family has put you through vet school, suffered through you not being there because you got called in or had to study, and you don’t get as much time with them as you would like.  An internship year will be that times two.  You will have almost no time for yourself or your relationships.  If you have children, a spouse you would like to spend more time with, ailing parents, or other family obligations, an internship may not be a good fit.  There are some programs which are slightly less time-consuming, but they are hard to identify (you can’t call up most programs and ask, “Will I typically work a 40-hour week?”- they’ll think you’re not willing to work hard so won’t rank you).  If you want family time, an internship will strain that.

2) You have financial obligations.

Most students graduate with some debt– that’s not a reason to avoid an internship.  But interns get paid substantially less than those who go out into private practice.  If that dip in pay will not be compensated for by a later increase in pay (for example, by being a specialist or a highly paid ER vet), the financial toll and opportunity costs of an internship may be too much for your finances.  If you owe 2-3 times as much as you expect to make, you may need to prioritize your financial health over your professional development.

3) You hated school.

An internship is a LOT like another senior clinical year.  You have more responsibility, more to learn, and less time to do it all.  If you couldn’t wait to Get Out, suffered through clinics, and just wanted to be your own person, don’t do an internship.  If your primary motivation is to have greater autonomy, as we found in a study looking at the decisions of those pursuing private practice vs. internship, don’t do an internship.  Although you DO have more responsibility than when you were a student, you’re still going to be told what to do.  A lot.

4) You don’t like to teach.

Although private practice interns may not teach much, those in an academic position teach routinely.  Please don’t inflict yourself on the students, residents, and faculty if you have no interest in teaching.  You don’t have to be GOOD at teaching to want to do an academic internship, but you at least have to be INTERESTED in teaching.  If you don’t, avoid an internship or, at least, an academic internship.

5) You graduated from a school which emphasized day one ready competence.

For years, I have told every graduate, “You are not done.  You are not qualified to practice good medicine.  You must do an internship.”  This was based on my experience working in an ER practice with new graduates who didn’t have an internship as well as the experiences of my classmates.  I have seen cases sent to the teaching hospital for cancer and the case only had a hotspot- but the new grad had never seen a hotspot before.  The vast majority of veterinary schools do not prepare you to be a good general practitioner (GP).  That is because most teach you in a tertiary care teaching hospital which sees all kinds of bizarre cases.  You learn about the Branham reflex, and what size plates get used in a TPLO, and what inflammatory bowel disease looks like on endoscopy.  This is not what GPs need to know.  Some schools have realized this, and are now teaching students to be day one ready competent GPs.  When I worked at one of those schools, I evaluated the students and thought, “OK, YOU may not need to do an internship.”  If you are lucky enough to go to one of those schools- or somehow carved out a unique GP-focused program at your school- you may not need to do an internship to be a competent GP.

I still stand by my belief that most new graduates will benefit from an internship.  However, if you have one of the circumstances above, you have my blessing to go out into practice and make the best of it.  Are there any reasons you have other than these?  Add them in the comments!

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