Why Are Interns Blue?
Dr. Robert Marion, author of The Intern Blues (2001), delivered to his readers daunting accounts of the trials and tribulations that were faced by three of his first-year medical interns. The book, presented in the form of a four-person diary, inevitably causes the reader to raise several questions about the current standards of medical education and evokes feelings of compassion and sympathy toward medical interns. Marion's book compelled me to look further into the harrowing conditions experienced by first-year interns and prompted me to seek out a more accommodating--yet equally effective--method of education.
According to the Associated Press (http://www.wtnh.com/Global/story.asp?S=688918), approximately 75% of medical interns who participated in a study developed by the University of Washington reported suffering from a "burnout" and almost one-half of those admitted to giving less-than-ideal care as a result. Interns and residents in the university's internal medicine program most often identified sleep deprivation, frequent shifts lasting longer than 24 hours and an overall lack of leisure time as their major stressors.
As is commonly known, sleep deprivation impairs an individual on many levels. For example, a person's immune system can be weakened, causing increased susceptibility to illness. Therefore, an intern would be at an even greater risk of acquiring an illness from other patients. In addition to this physical health risk, sleep deprivation may cause mental impairments as well. The brain's frontal cortex relies on sleep to function effectively. Insufficient sleep patterns adversely affect the frontal cortex's ability to control speech, access memory, and solve problems, and perform other fundamental tasks.
First-year medical interns often experience persistent feelings of helplessness and apprehension. These feelings are likely induced by the harsh realization that, although their patients view them as doctors, there are many things that they have yet to learn. The...