What I Wish I Knew Before Starting My OB/GYN Intern Year

July 10, 2023
If you’re headed into your OB/GYN intern year, it’s common to feel nervous or overwhelmed with the transition to residency. Here are some words of advice that I wish I knew before starting my own OB/GYN intern year, and some tips to help set you up for success!

I vividly recall the night before my very first shift as an OB/GYN intern.

I sat in my apartment with my new scrubs, pager, white coat, and hospital badge thinking, “Can I really be a doctor? Am I prepared for this? What if I fail?”

If you’re starting intern year, you may be having the same thoughts of imposter syndrome. Let me tell you something you need to know for OB/GYN intern year: you do have what it takes. You can do this. You are prepared—after all, you’ve been training your whole life for this!

It’s completely normal to have doubts and worries, but you would not have made it this far if you couldn’t do it. Remind yourself that you’re intelligent, empathetic, capable, and going to be an amazing doctor!

Also, it’s important to remember that you aren’t alone! You aren’t the first to embark on this journey. We’ve been through it, and we’re here to help you. To make sure your residency goes as smoothly as possible, I’m going to share with you five things I wish I knew going into my OB/GYN intern year. 

Ready to hit the ground running? Then let’s get to it!

1. You’ll Often Be Wrong 

One of the most important things you should prepare yourself for is being wrong. It’s going to happen a lot. Get used to it. You may have aced tests in undergrad and medical school, but residency doesn’t come with multiple-choice answers. The learning curve is extremely steep and you are going to make lots of mistakes—and that’s okay!

You have nurses, techs, other residents, and attendings that are always going to be looking over your shoulder and checking your work. You’re going to accidentally order the wrong medication or forget something a nurse asked you to do. The best thing you can do is learn from it, move on, and not hold it against yourself.

Similarly, never be afraid to ask questions. Even if it’s something you think might be silly like the dosage of ibuprofen or how to put in a discharge order, ask your colleagues or your attending for help. That is what they are there for, and you should never be afraid to ask questions.

2. It’s Important to Take Care of Yourself 

One of the most important things you should know as a new OB/GYN is that self-care is a choice you need to make every day. Our job is tough. Like, really tough. You get to be there for patients during the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, and you spend a lot of time at the hospital.

To be the best doctor that you can be, you have to take care of yourself to prevent burnout. Set aside time to do the things that rejuvenate and energize you. Whether it’s spending time with friends and family, exercising, or just chilling on the couch watching television, you’ll be a better doctor if you take care of yourself. 

3. Make Sure You Bond with Other OB/GYN Residents 

One of the most fulfilling parts of residency is getting to bond with your co-residents. You’ll have a group of people from completely different walks of life starting a new experience together on July 1, and the best thing you can do for yourself is to rely on them.

No one will truly understand your experiences as they do, and knowing they are by your side is essential for your well-being. Use your classmates as a sounding board, have venting sessions, and always be there for each other.

4. Savor Your OB/GYN Residency 

You may have a lot of expectations going into your intern year, or you may not know what to expect. Either way, you are going to face situations that you couldn’t have imagined in your wildest dreams. Whether it’s delivering a baby on the side of the road, doing four hysterectomies in a day, or making music videos in the L&D workroom, the life of an OB/GYN is always a wild ride.

Instead of fearing the unknown, start every day by asking yourself, “What am I going to learn today?” and end every day by considering how even the most outlandish experiences taught you something about being an OB/GYN.

During residency, the days are long and the years are short. Having just graduated from residency myself, I can attest that it feels like yesterday I was sitting through intern orientation wondering what I had gotten myself into, and now I wonder where all the time went.

Even when it’s difficult, savor residency! Go for post-call brunch after a 24-hour shift. Get drinks with your co-residents after a particularly difficult rotation. These four years have the potential to be the best four years of your life, so try not to spend the entire time wishing for it to be over. 

5. Be Sure to Find an OB/GYN Mentor 

The final piece of advice I have is to find a good mentor during residency. Your program may assign you an official mentor so this is a good starting place, but over the first few months of residency, you should seek out an attending or faculty member that you click with to be a formal or informal mentor.

Your mentor can be somebody with similar research interests, background, personality, or just someone that you think can guide you through the four years of residency and beyond. You may need different mentors for different situations. Perhaps a research mentor to guide you through writing a manuscript, a clinical mentor to help you adjust to life as an intern, and maybe just a life mentor to help you take care of yourself during residency!

Further Reading

These tips will help you make the most of your residency, but of course, there is no one-size-fits-all way to prepare for intern year. There will be many ups and downs. There may be some tears, but there will also be a lot of laughs. You will have tough days, but you’ll have way more good days. Expect the unexpected. Never forget why you chose to be an OB/GYN in the first place. Always remember the people that helped you get where you are. Lastly, and most importantly, have fun!

For more tips to help you through OB/GYN residency, check out these other (free!) articles on the Rosh Review blog:

By Zachary Schoppen, MD

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