What is a Medical Intern: Understand the Role of a Medical Intern

What is a Medical Intern

Medical internships and residencies provide a path for many medical professionals to start their careers. These programs can offer payment and benefits like medical and health care and insurance, which differs from internships in other fields. If you are considering a medical internship, it may be helpful to understand the potential earning opportunities.

Prospective doctors must complete a one-year internship after finishing medical school. They can practice clinical medicine knowledge during this time, but a more experienced doctor closely supervises their work.

After finishing an internship, doctors usually undergo a residency program that provides further training in a specific area of medicine and allows them to specialize. It is helpful to review their job description to understand better the responsibilities of a medical intern or attending physician.

What is a Medical Intern?

A former medical student or intern is a graduate of medical school who starts working at a hospital or medical center to gain hands-on experience in the medical field. These internships are part of the practical medical training required for medical students to become physicians and other healthcare professionals.

Internships in the medical field refer to the first year of graduate or residency training. Once this year is completed, the term “internship” is no longer used, and it is referred to as a residency program instead. Generally, residency programs can last anywhere from three to eight years.

Types of Medical Internships

Here is a list of medical schools and internships to help graduates select an internship that best suits their goals and interests.

Transitional Internship

The duration of a general practitioner transitional medical internship is usually one year. It is popular among those who wish to become general practitioners due to its relatively short length. Upon completing this program, individuals may acquire their license and join or establish a general practice. Typically, medical interns in this program enhance their abilities in leadership and decision-making.

Interns gain clinical internal medicine experience by participating in rotation shifts at the ambulance and hospital and attending workshops. These shifts may involve switching between departments or having different duties depending on the time or day.

Specialty Internships

Interns specializing in a field other than general practice medicine usually opt for specialty internships such as emergency medicine, surgery, gynecology, critical care, and pediatrics. To start a specialty internship, check with the hospital or medical center you prefer to learn about their requirements.

Usually, interns receive training under licensed professionals in their specific field, and the length of the internship depends on the concentration, which can range from four to six years.

Nursing Internships

Individuals pursuing a career in nursing as interns are required to complete nursing internships and residency programs. These programs typically have a shorter duration than doctor internships. However, the time varies depending on the agenda. For example, some internship programs may last only a few weeks, while others may continue for a year or more.

Nursing internships usually permit students to select specialized tracks and receive training from licensed nurses who specialize in those areas. As an intern, your responsibilities may include supporting registered nurses and carrying out simple patient care duties like taking vital signs and documenting patient information for medical records.

Pre-med Internships

Pre-med internships are programs designed for undergraduate students pursuing a pre-med degree to gain experience in the medical field. These internships are typically completed during summer or semester-long courses in undergraduate programs.

The internship may involve:

  • Answering phone calls.
  • Treating patients.
  • Managing inventory.
  • Assisting with patient transportation.
  • Recording patients’ information in the hospital’s system.

To explore their interests in the medical field, students frequently observe various medical procedures by shadowing licensed professionals. In addition to extensive research, specific pre-med internships may require attending lectures, presentations, seminars, and research projects.

Basic Medical Practitioner Terms

To become a medical doctor, students who may have pursued a “pre-med” transitional and specialty track during their bachelor’s degree must attend medical school. This is a mandatory step. After completing medical school, aspiring doctors are required to serve one-year internships where they gain practical experience while working in a healthcare facility under the supervision of experienced physicians.

Doctors who have completed an internship are qualified to work independently as general medical practitioners, as the American Association of Medical Colleges states. Still, many medical graduates pursue a residency program to become specialists. By completing a residency program, Doctors can specialize in pediatrics, gynecology, surgery, oncology, endocrinology, allergology, and dermatology.

Sometimes, interns start working in their specialty area and are referred to as first-year residents. 

Medical School Basics

Immunologists undergo the same medical school training as other doctors, where they learn both in a classroom setting and through hands-on clinical experience. This general medical education provides the basis for their specialty.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that science and health subjects such as anatomy, pharmacology, and medical ethics are the primary focus of classroom instruction. The purpose of the clinical experience is to give students hands-on experience in the medical field.

This involves exposure to various medical specialties, providing students with a wide range of knowledge to identify their areas of interest. Once doctors finish their residency, which may last two to seven years, depending on their specialty, they are acknowledged as specialists.

How much do Medical Interns make?

The average medical internship salary is $36,884 annually, but interns specializing in gynecology or nursing may earn varying pay rates.

The amount you earn as a medical intern can differ based on where you work and which hospital or medical center you are employed at. Hospitals in rural areas may have lower average salary offers than those in urban areas. Furthermore, the duration of your employment at the hospital may also impact your salary.

What Does a Medical Intern Do?

Interns in the medical field commonly carry out tasks like documenting patient medical histories, conducting biopsies and intubations, examining patients, taking patient records, and providing treatment recommendations.

Medical interns are supervised by a physician assistant, senior physician, resident, or doctor while performing their duties. Interns specializing in general surgery may also assist licensed surgeons with minor surgical procedures.

Medical Intern Qualifications

To become a medical intern, candidates typically must complete a bachelor’s degree in biology, family medicine, pre-med, or a related field before enrolling in medical school.

After completing medical school, graduates can obtain the necessary medical license and begin their internship. The process for obtaining consent usually involves taking either the Medical Licensing Examination or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination.

Students applying for these internships must use the knowledge and skills acquired in school.


In conclusion, medical interns are crucial in the healthcare system as they assist physicians in bridging the gap between medical school and residency. They are in a transformative phase, where they gain valuable hands-on experience, refine their clinical skills, and develop their professional identity as future physicians.

The journey of a medical intern involves rigorous education, intense clinical rotations, and collaborative work with medical teams. Although challenging, the rewards of being a medical intern are immense, as it lays the foundation for a successful medical career.

By completing a medical internship, these aspiring doctors acquire essential competencies in their interpersonal skills, contribute to patient care, and prepare themselves for the next step in their training as they transition to residency.

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