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You’ll mess up but save the day: advice to new doctors as they start work as interns

New doctors' intern year is a time of highs and lows, saves and mistakes, power and weakness. Advice: take the first steps in that role with humility.

I sit at the front of a lecture hall, facing 50 newly minted doctors. In a few days they will enter the hospital for the first time as M.D.s. I was in their shoes two years ago. Now, as a senior resident entering the last year of my training, I’ve been asked to offer them some advice about the year ahead as interns.

As a new doctor, you will make a save. Over the course of the year, as your knowledge, confidence, and neuroticism grow, you will inevitably catch something that no one else did. Maybe it’s a key diagnosis: “How many bowel movements have you had in the last day?” I ask my patient. “Forty? And urinary incontinence, too?” I order an MRI, which reveals what I feared — a mass pressing on my patient’s spinal cord.

Maybe you’ll find that your most satisfying “saves” aren’t emergencies but helping someone take gradual, positive steps in the right

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