The Intern Blues Book Review

The first thing I want to say about, The Intern Blues by Dr. Robert Marion, is that the book is depressing, discouraging, and frightening. However, even though all these things are absolutely true, I am not going to dwell on these adjectives. Instead, I want to encourage, make that strongly encourage, medical students, their families, and especially college students thinking of the medical field to read and then re-read this book.

The Intern Blues: The Timeless Classic About the Making of a Doctor is the collection of feelings, lessons, and travails from young doctors: Andy, Amy, and Mark as they reveal their own very personal, and gut wrenching monthly narratives of how they survived their intern year. Robert Marion (Bob) collects these notes and also makes monthly comments about the interns, or interjects commentary about his own intern year.

If you didn’t know, an “intern” is a first year resident. Almost immediately after graduating medical school and finally earning that M.D., young men and women are thrown into the hospital to begin their grueling training. Interns may work 80 hours a week or more, and are expected to perform at the highest level or risk harming patients.

These interns are specializing in pediatrics. We hear such stories as a 13-year-old rape victim, children suffering injuries from exploding firecrackers, and perfectly healthy adolescents being suddenly diagnosed with leukemia. These interns don’t just deal with patients and their families. They also have to learn to negotiate with nurses and medical technicians, and survive being supervised by chief residents and attendings.

“I’m going to kill them, I’m going to kill them all!  I was on last night and today was the worst day of my internship.  It’s bad enough spending the night running from room to room trying to keep twenty-eight babies from dying, but to do that and to have to spend the next day being nice to Rhonda and putting up with all the shit the chief residents are handing us, that’s a little too much.  So it looks like I’m going to have to kill everybody to get any peace.”   -A quote from Mark after only 2 months of his internship.

I would say it goes down hill from there...

Medical students should read this book so they can try to mentally prepare for their own year as an intern (if that is at all possible). This book touches on all the emotional highs and lows, the constant exhaustion, and the medical lessons interns will learn as they make the life and death decisions as a doctor.

Families and friends of interns should study this book so that they can help and not add to the intern’s burden. The mood swings, and little time available for family is a given. This book will hopefully enlighten family that is being ignored by, or being the target of emotional outbursts by their loved ones currently in such a program. It should not be taken personally.

I especially recommend any college students thinking of a medical career read this book.  You will find out that the process to be an M.D. is physically and mentally exhausting and exacting.  You will find out how tough it is to have those letters after your name, and just how much is expected of you. You can use this book as part of an educated decision on whether to undergo the medicine route.

Robert Marion closes the book by catching us up with all three interns ten years later, which is a great ending to a great book. The intern's words have replayed over and over in my head since I finished the book over a week ago.  I recommend you listen to their stories.