Prepping for Intern Year: What I’m Doing and Why

If you stay ready, you ain’t gotta get ready” – Will Smith

Maaaan, I LOVE that quote and say it to myself aaaall the time. I’m a planner at heart, so it just speaks to my soul. However, the truth is, it doesn’t always ring true. And I’m pretty much 100 percent certain, okay 99.9 percent certain, this isn’t always true for intern year (the 1st year of residency). Besides the regular curve balls that’s bound to happen no matter how MUCH you plan, there’s also word on the street that there’s really no way to prepare for intern year. This qualitative study published last month (ahead of print) provides insight on the transition from medical student to resident. A few of my takeaways:  (1) There’s an abrupt change from medical school to residency (2)  The volume and nature of learning as a resident can be overwhelming; immersion is truly the only way through. I highly encourage you to download the paper and give it a read. Still though, I can’t help wanting to prep a bit (staying true to self, ha!).

Now before anyone starts with, “Why are you preparing for intern year? Enjoy this period! Don’t worry about it,” etc etc etc. Let me just say I have done all the above and I have ENJOYED. I have watched a ton of TV – ranging from “Real House Wives of Atlanta” season 1 to current, all “Ozark” season 1-3, “Tiger King” documentary, “Micheal Jordan: The last dance” documentary  and more. I have read for pleasure, some of the books being:

I have chatted with friends and family over the phone and via Zoom. I have connected with mentees and stayed sane during this COVID-19 pandemic by praying, working out, and doing yoga – I even did 30 days of yoga in April on my fitness Instagram. I’ve explored new dishes in the kitchen – including making lasagna for the first time.

Yea, I’ve definitely relaxed and tried to soak in this period of life that I’ll never get again.

But now it’s time to GET READY.

Chance favors the prepared mind” like the saying goes. I start intern year in less than a month. Though I am training to be an anesthesiologist, my first year of residency is primarily internal medicine – to build a strong foundation before specialized training. So here’s what I’ve been doing:

Reading, reading, reading and questions.


I registered for USMLE Step 3, which is the LAST United States Medical Licensing exam I have to take. Like the others, it cost a pretty penny, but I started the registration process because it can take up to 12 weeks before it’s processed and I’m able to schedule the exam. So far I’ve been waiting 2 weeks for it to process.

I bought UWorld question bank. I already know what my vacation days are going to be (we get 20 weekdays as interns and they have to be during certain rotations), so I have an idea when I plan to take Step 3. We are required to take the exam by end of intern year (please note this varies for other specialties and programs). I’ve started working through the question bank, slowly but surely.  I’m doing a little bit at a time now with the hope of resetting my question bank if time permits. Less stress down the line? Here for it!

step 3 books

I’ve also been reading these two books recommended to me in preparation for Step 3. I imagine that reading for the exam is also a primer for intern year. As an intern working almost 80 hrs/ week, I’m told I won’t have as much time to read through these books, so I’m happy to be doing this now. If some things stick – Yayyyyy! If not, welp I tried. The two books are Master the Boards USMLE Step 3 and Crush Step 3 CCS. Master the Boards breaks things down by topics i.e. Cardiology, OBGYN etc, whereas Crush Step 3 CCS follows a case based format i.e. this is a patient’s presentation, what labs, exams etc do you want to order next and so on. Step 3 is a two-day exam with both the clinical knowledge format like Step 2 CK and a computer-based case simulations (CCS) format, so having these two prep materials are great for me.

In other exciting news, I received my intern schedule and just like I predicted (and lowkey wanted), I have an ICU rotation early. Not gona lie, I was excited when I saw the schedule. Excited because I get to face this learning curve EARLY. I know it will be challenging, but I’m thankful I’ll have my attendings and senior residents to guide me through. In preparation, I’ve also been reading Marino’s The Little ICU Book. I’ve been reading a chapter a day since May 2nd. So far I’m on chapter 19. It’s working out really well since the chapters aren’t long and dense. There’s a larger ICU book by the same author, but I specifically wanted this bite size, smaller version, that just seems more feasible for me.

icu book

Experience has taught me to prepare, stay ready, READ and don’t underestimate things (flashback to Step 2 CS). I have no doubt that intern year will still be a challenging transition regardless of my prep, but I’m hoping that by reading, my knowledge base, my foundation won’t be an additional hurdle to the mix of challenges. I may not remember everything I’m reading, but shoot if it rings a bell, my mission is accomplished.

Yes through this, I’m still working out, still watching TV, still relaxing. Just doing it with a bit of structure. If in hindsight this prep turns out to be completely useless, I’ll try to reference this post at a later time with a big message: Do not waste your time. Till then however, the prep continues!

Do drop some encouragement in the comments, tips or advice on residency, or how you’ve been coping with the COVID pandemic. I want to hear it all.

Cheers, Derin

Amazon links to books referenced: 

Step 3 Prep:

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