How to Survive Your Intern Year

how to survive your intern year

It happened about halfway through my intern year.

I’d stayed up til 2am finishing an assignment and set the alarm on my phone to get up in time for work in the morning.

Next thing I knew I woke up to the sound of the doorbell going off non stop in my unit.

It was 11:30, my alarm hadn’t gone off and my mum had turned up to find me.

Slightly embarrassing.

The reason I didn’t wake up? My phone had died during the night. That alarm I set on my phone never went off.

I laugh about it now but at the time I was pretty red-faced.

There’s no denying the intern year is tough. Not only are you in what is probably your first full-time job, you’re also studying on top of that. You might also be trying to manage workplace politics and finding your feet as a professional.

So what can you do to manage the stress of the year?

Look after yourself

There's a reason I put this first - because it should be your priority.

It’s tempting to just werk werk werk until you’ve finished those bloody hours. Plus managing full-time work and studying leaves little time to fill up your own cup.

But here's the thing - there's a reason why you have to put your own oxygen mask on first when the plane goes down. You can't look after others if you're not looking after yourself.

Make time for things outside of work and study. Catch up with friends. Go for a walk. Whatever makes you feel good. You might even consider, gasp, taking a week off to go on holidays.

Find learning experiences in the mundane

Yep, I get it. Some of the work you have to do is just plain boring. Stocking the shelves? Why do I have to do that?

Instead of thinking a job is beneath you (which, trust me, it’s not) use every opportunity to practice your knowledge.

I used to practice my drug knowledge while stacking the dispensary shelves - drug name, therapeutic group, indication, usual dose, common side effects.

Find ways to make those menial jobs learning experiences.

Speak up

This year is not merely an extension of Uni. Your intern year is the start of your career. It's not a time to be complacent.

If you have an idea of how to make the Pharmacy work better, a health service you think would fit or any other idea make sure you speak up.

Even if your idea isn’t taken up you’ve shown initiative.

Buddy up for study

Find a friend you can study with. Not all the time but particularly when you’re preparing for the oral exam.

By far the best thing I did in my intern year was buddy up with a friend to study, mainly right before the exams. We would practice for the oral exams and we were able to identify gaps we might have otherwise missed.

The Medicine Box

Seriously, you need to know about The Medicine Box, an online learning portal for intern pharmacists.

There is so much gold here with topic summaries, over 370 revision questions and over 100 practice exam questions.

Get feedback

I mean real feedback. Feedback that is actionable not just a 'you're doing great'. And not just from your preceptor.

Ask people all around you at work and maybe even some regular patients. It may not always be comfortable but you can’t improve what you don’t know.


Don’t leave your assignments til the last minute. Plan ahead so you're not up til 2am finishing assignments the night before they're due.

Oh and maybe buy a backup alarm clock.

Haven't chosen which ITP to go with yet?

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