What being an intern is all about…

For the past 4 weeks I have been an intern at the Leiden University Medical Centre, at the department of Pediatrics, a part of my training as clinical pharmacologist. And let me tell you that from senior clinical scientist at CHDR to intern at the hospital is a world of difference…

On Monday my internship would start at 8.15 in a room that is of course very well hidden in the many hallways of the hospital. An extra handicap here was that my supervisor (and the only person I knew from the whole department) was still away on holiday, but she had assured me that there would be a colleague who would know of me starting as an intern that day. So the challenge of finding that person (of which of course nobody that I met in the many hallways knew anything about) began. In the end I found someone who could guide me to the room where I had to be present that morning, and the secretary had been able to find a document with the specifics (supervisors, meetings and rooms per week) of my internship. And so the 4 weeks commenced.

In this period I noticed that some of the supervisors tend to underestimate you as you are ‘just an intern’. They are surprised to hear that I was not a student, but an experienced researcher with a PhD. And that is a funny thing, that you tend to put people in a box, and if that box is labelled ‘intern’, that there are specific presumptions about your level of experience. I on the other hand, was eagerly consuming new information and integrating that into my own knowledge. Because I have a somewhat different background than my supervisors (I am not an MD) and because working at CHDR is different from working in the hospital, I was of course curious about certain procedures and the reasons why things are being done in a certain way. And I noticed that in some cases the questions that I posed made people wonder why a procedure is as it is, and if it is still the correct or most logical way.

And I recognize that from my own experience as a supervisor of interns. At CHDR the roles are opposite; I have been the supervisor of a number of students, guiding them in clinical projects and overseeing the writing process of their master thesis. And when they are fresh in, they pose questions. Good interns tend to challenge existing procedures and make you think about things you do routinely and possibly without good reason or thought. And this makes interns valuable assets to a company; they are (hopefully) eager to learn, but they also possess a healthy portion of critical thinking. They are new to the company, see it from a different perspective and, let’s not forget, are fresh out of college and have a lot of textbook knowledge readily available.

Being able to do a clinical rotation at the Pediatrics department has been an interesting experience, and it made me be aware of what being an intern is all about. But even more importantly, it also renewed my critical thinking!

So, value your interns, and it wouldn’t be bad idea to once in a while be an intern in your own company to renew your own critical view…. And, keep on learning!

Ellen ‘t Hart

Ellen ’t Hart

Senior Clinical Scientist