As a pre-med student with plans to attend medical school, having internship experience on your med school application can help you stand out from the competition. But internships aren’t just a resume builder. They offer something even more valuable:
The chance to learn practical skills and gain real-world insight into what it means to work in medicine.
If you’re getting ready to begin an internship or start applying to programs, here’s how to make the most of internships as a medical student.
Pay Close Attention to the Workplace Itself
Many medical students imagine themselves working in a particular region or workplace setting, such as a bustling hospital in a big city or a small practice in a rural town. If you’re lucky enough to land an internship in the setting in which you think you want to work, you have a huge advantage.
Pay close attention to the workplace. Is it more hectic than you thought it would be? Does it operate at a much slower pace than you imagined? Do the physicians and support staff seem to enjoy the workplace environment?
Observing the workplace and how employees function within it can be a great indication as to whether or not you might want to work in a similar setting. This information can help steer you into (or away from) certain medical schools or residency programs in upcoming years.
Network and Make Connections
No matter where you intern or what your responsibilities are, this is the perfect time to start forging relationships with professionals in the field. Making professional connections while you’re still in school can open doors for you in the future in the way of letters of recommendations or job opportunities.
An internship may also offer you the opportunity to connect with a mentor. A mentor can be invaluable to your career and professional development, and they can also be instrumental in your personal development.
Learn Practical Skills
As an intern, you won’t be responsible for making any crucial medical decisions or providing any clinical patient care that requires a medical license. But you might be given the opportunity to shadow and observe physicians that do.
Observe everything that goes on around you, including how physicians interact with patients and how protocols are followed. Make notes for yourself to keep track of what you observe and don’t be afraid to ask questions when the opportunity arises.
An internship can be valuable, practical career experience, so treat it as seriously as you would any paid job. Your goal as an intern is to tackle (and excel at) the tasks assigned specifically to you, but it’s also a chance to learn how actual professionals conduct themselves in the field.
Develop Soft Skills
While the job of most physicians and healthcare workers relies heavily on technical skills and clinical training, soft skills are important as well.
Soft skills are those that you can use in any and every job, such as:
- Problem solving skills
- Communication skills
- Time management skills
- Teamwork and collaboration skills
Spend as much time as possible observing and absorbing how the physicians around you resolve problems, communicate with patients and colleagues, and work respectively within teams. This can help you develop your own soft skills and build upon the ones you already have.
Use Your Internship Experience to Inspire Further Career Research
Your internship may inspire you to want to work in an administrative role, or in an academic or research setting, or as a clinical physician treating patients day in and day out.
If your internship inspires interest in a specific role or specialty, do further research to learn as much about that role as possible, including details such as salary potential and the amount of training involved.
Checkout this website for detailed information regarding salaries for cardiologists, surgeons, OBGYNs, and other high income earners. Visit the AMA website to learn how many years of education and residency training each specialty requires.
While you might prefer to spend your summer vacationing or working a part-time job to put some extra money in your pocket, devoting your time to an internship can be far more valuable.
During an internship you can learn about various workplace settings, build your professional network, develop soft skills, and gain insight into what it’s really like to work as a physician.
Interning while you’re still in a pre-med program may also help you figure out the direction in which you want to take your career, and that’s something that many physicians-to-be don’t figure out until they’re well into their graduate studies.