I thought it was hard being the intern and figuring out how to relate to the attendings and all the various levels of residents senior to me.

Figuring out what to do with my intern is even more complicated.

He’s not brilliant, but he tries hard enough that I can’t just write him off as a bad job. But how do I balance between pushing him hard enough that he learns what he needs to do to make a surgical service work, and being friendly? How do I let him make enough mistakes that he takes things seriously, but keep anybody from getting hurt? There are so many things that he ought to be doing, that we’ve told him about, but he forgets or doesn’t know how. So do I just do them myself, which would be the simplest, remind him endlessly and start looking like his mother or older sister, or let them go until he gets embarassed in front of the chief and/or attendings, to make him remember?

He’s not like I was as an intern, which also makes it complicated. If I’d had an intern as naive and hopeful and trusting, and incompetent, as I was, maybe I’d know better how to relate. Someone who says, I want to do it right, but is rather clueless, seems to me easier to deal with than someone who talks brashly and confidently, but doesn’t have the knowledge or skill to back it up. An intern mouthing off like a senior resident throws me off. The older residents have earned the right to make flippant remarks; my intern doesn’t have the experience that in my minds earns a little tolerance for making unkind remarks about nurses or patients. If the chief says he doesn’t care, I know that his record of hard work, long hours, and lives saved show he doesn’t really mean that. But for my intern to say that – it’s too early. The attending can say, “Ah, fibromyalgia, consult rheumatology,” because we know he has the experience to be confident that there’s nothing really the matter; the intern needs to think a little deeper before brushing someone off.

But I’m not the censor. My intern is an adult, and needs to sort things out for himself. I try not to comment on his attitudes or remarks, just on his work. Hopefully in a few months he’ll learn what’s acceptable and what’s not. I trust the nurses, too, to set him down when he needs it. They can do that better than I can. Time will tell. Like me, he needs to see bad things happen just to learn that they can; then he won’t talk about them so lightly.