Welcome to There, I Said It- a column where we give you, the reader, a chance to get something off your chest in an anonymous fashion. Be it embarrassing, frustrating, or just something you didn’t want to admit out loud, it still might make someone else having a bad day feel just a bit better. If you have a story of your own, unburden yourself at TISI@drandyroark.com.
I’m an intern. And somehow, I enjoy what I do (nearly) every day. However, I fail to see why we interns (and residents too) as a whole are, well, abused, for lack of a better term.
I’m not beaten or bullied by any means. In fact, everyone here is actually really nice and helpful. But I make very little money compared to the time and effort spent in the hospital. I’d make more money doing just about anything else – seriously, anything – when you consider a little thing called minimum wage. How is this ok?
We treat our newest members of the profession in a way designed to make life miserable. Everyone tells me, “Oh, internships suck,” And, “You get paid in knowledge.” Unfortunately, I can’t use my knowledge to buy new scrubs… or dinner.
A Recent Example
I do get “extra” pay for emergencies I see, unless the client doesn’t pay the bill, in which case I get nothing. This happened just the other night, in fact, and instead of the hospital saying, “This shouldn’t have happened, and it’s not your fault the receptionist didn’t tell the guy about the emergency fee. Here’s your 10 bucks,” (and yes, that’s my “extra” pay per case: $10), I was told I won’t get it because, “That’s part of your clinical training.”
So, I have zero supervisory responsibility over the staff, and yet I get penalized for a mistake they’ve made. That’s pretty fair, right?
Oh wait, it’s not.
No, Really. Why?
Why do we allow this? The answers always seem to be along the lines of: “Because I went through it, and you have to do it to,” and, “Well, interns at xxx have it twice as bad.” Those don’t seem like the kind of logical, ethical answers I’d expect from someone in our profession, but it’s what I hear every single time.
I don’t need (or expect) to live like a king by any means. However, literally scavenging about 80% of my caloric intake from hospital/vet school leftovers laying around after talks, CE courses, etc. is part of my daily life. At least my scavenging allows me to save my pittance to buy a car… Hey, a man can dream!
There Has to Be a Better Way
I don’t expect a massive upheaval by writing this. I worked in academia for a long time prior to, and during, vet school. I know there are lots of money issues, budget cuts, etc. However, when minimum wage sounds like a huge promotion, it’s hard not to think, “Maybe I made the wrong choice.”
I’m not quitting my job anytime soon, nor am I considering doing anything terrible to myself. I’m actually pretty happy right now, and am glad I’m in this program. But I think it’s important to note there are serious problems within our system, and I truly believe there is a better way than the current model.
I will end by saying this: I don’t think people running programs are inherently evil slave-driving scoundrels. But you can be very sure I won’t repeat the cycle, should I ever have interns/residents under me. They will at least be able to live without worrying about if there will be free food in the building that day because they haven’t eaten in two days*.
*That particular event only occurred once, near the start of my internship. I had just moved back from Australia, had no money, and had only been paid for part of the first month (and every cent went to paying the rent). But does this sort of thing need to happen at all? I think we can come up with a better solution.
The views and opinions featured on There, I Said It are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of the DrAndyRoark.com editorial team.