How to Succeed in Your Intern Year of Family Medicine

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • You probably found your way to this blog after matching into a family medicine residency, if so, congratulations! The next three years will be some of the most fun and challenging years in your medical career. You’ll have the opportunity to learn and work with experienced attendings and grow into your own style of practicing medicine. Your first year of residency comes with many unfamiliar challenges, as it differs drastically from school. The keys to success include juggling clinical time, preparation for boards, and maintaining physical and mental health. Your first year will set the foundation for the next two years and the rest of your career so finding the right balance now is pivotal. Here are some tips on how to thrive in your first year of family medicine residency. 

    Tip #1: Start off on the right foot.

    You will soon be flooded with emails and forms from your residency program, including credentialing and badging paperwork, licensing requirements, and your residency contract to name a few. Maintain prompt communication with your program coordinator and complete these time-sensitive documents in a professional manner. If you have questions, ask right away so you don’t delay your start date or have any errors along the way. Note important dates, especially the start of orientation and prepare for it ahead of time. Some programs have incoming interns schedule their vacations ahead of time, so be sure to ask so you can receive the days that you want, because holidays are usually the first to go. Lastly, keep copies of your paperwork as you may need to refer to them as the year progresses.  

    Tip #2: Embrace the new role.  

    Your clinical responsibilities were limited in the past as a medical student, but as a resident your primary role is patient care, learning comes secondary. Often the two go hand-in-hand, but remember you have larger clinical responsibilities for your patient. You are now responsible for the ancillary tasks in patient care including calling consults, following up on health maintenance, responding to patient results, and care coordination for each patient. The tricky part is that there are many duties of a physician beyond what you learn in school. Follow the advice of your seniors and attendings and gain exposure to these duties as an intern to prepare you for success in the coming rotations.

    Tip #3: Bond with your co-workers.

    For the next three years, your co-residents are likely the people you will see most. You’ll spend more time with them than your friends, your family, your pets and likely more than your significant other. You will spend hours together in the clinic and hospital and you share an experience that others will find difficult to understand. Spending time with your co-residents outside of work is a great way to bond and helps make the long working days bearable especially when you become overwhelmed. These are the folks who will cover your shifts if you call in sick, these are your fellow brethren in the trenches, treat them as such. You may gain some lifelong friends!

    Tip #4: Make time for your hobbies.  

    It is very easy to become consumed with the day to day of residency. When spending 12+ hours in the hospital, it can be hard to keep up with your hobbies. I encourage you to make time for the things that matter to you whether it’s staying active, spending time with family, or whatever. These wellness activities will help keep you grounded and prevent burnout in residency.

    Tip #5:  Ask questions.

    Intern year is the year you will feel like you learn the most medicine and the most about patient care. By the end of the year you will feel like you have your routine down. In developing your knowledge base and your routine, never hesitate to ask questions. This is the first of three years that are for you to become the best family physician you can be and that can only be done by making sure your questions are answered.  

    Enjoy it! You will make many lifelong friendships in residency and learn more than you thought was possible. The next two years will then include training and teaching the incoming interns. If things start to become overwhelming, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Most programs offer anonymous services if you are starting to feel burnt-out so reach out to your program for guidance.

    Further reading:

    How to Become a Family Medicine Physician 

    A Day in the Life of a PGY1 Family Medicine Resident: In Family Medicine Clinic

    Surviving Intern Year and Clinical Rotations: Must-Haves & Essential Tips

    Photo by Cdn Pages on Unsplash


    About the Author

    Mike is a driven tutor and supportive advisor. He received his MD from Baylor College of Medicine and then stayed for residency. He has recently taken a faculty position at Baylor because of his love for teaching. Mike’s philosophy is to elevate his students to their full potential with excellent exam scores, and successful interviews at top-tier programs. He holds the belief that you learn best from those close to you in training. Dr. Ren is passionate about his role as a mentor and has taught for much of his life – as an SAT tutor in high school, then as an MCAT instructor for the Princeton Review. At Baylor, he has held review courses for the FM shelf and board exams as Chief Resident.   For years, Dr. Ren has worked closely with the office of student affairs and has experience as an admissions advisor. He has mentored numerous students entering medical and residency and keeps in touch with many of them today as they embark on their road to aspiring physicians. His supportiveness and approachability put his students at ease and provide a safe learning environment where questions and conversation flow. For exam prep, Mike will help you develop critical reasoning skills and as an advisor he will hone your interview skills with insider knowledge to commonly asked admissions questions.