Sarah M. Clark, M.D. is an Intern at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center this year and will start Stanford Anesthesia in July 2012. She was kind enough to write a description of her PGY1 year at the Valley up to this point. I hope it is useful information to applicants interested in learning more about the transitional year there.
Internship at the Valley combines the flexibility and variety in schedule that you expect from a transitional year with all of the perks and disadvantages associated with working at a county hospital. The year is divided into 13 four week blocks that include obstetrics, pediatrics, surgery, ED, ICU, medicine wards, and elective time.
The program director, Melissa Chin, works with each intern individually to create electives that are interesting and relevant to that intern. I was able to spend 2 weeks on cardiology, 1 week on echocardiography, 1 week in the coroner’s office (a unique experience that I’d recommend to anyone who doesn’t get queasy around dead bodies!), and 4 weeks up at Stanford doing research and spending time in the anesthesia department. After all that, I still have 2 more weeks of elective later in the year that I can spend how ever I choose.
That being said, wards at the Valley can be pretty draining. Being a county hospital, the patients can be very sick and often have many social issues that can translate into difficult dispositions. In addition, the systems are not always the most efficient or logical and you can spend a significant portion of your day tracking down charts, looking for vitals binders, or filling out paperwork. However, working at a county hospital will also give you the opportunity to take care of patients with advanced medical conditions, and you will be able to do so from the perspective of the numerous different specialty services that you will work on throughout the year.
Another big advantage of being an intern at the Valley is the relationship with Stanford. Not only do you have the opportunity to spend time up at Stanford for electives and some ward months, but many of the residents, fellows, and attendings at Valley are affiliated with Stanford. This has allowed me to work with surgery and anesthesia residents, as well as residents and attendings in many other specialties. I have also had the opportunity to get to know my four co-interns who will also be heading up to Stanford for anesthesia in July 2012.
Overall, SCVMC is not the easiest or least stressful of transitional years, but it has numerous advantages that make it a great place to spend your intern year. Throughout the year I will work in a variety of departments and specialities that are all relevant to anesthesia. Furthermore, I was able to do exactly what I wanted during my elective time and the balance between difficult and easy months has been pretty reasonable thus far. At the end of the year I will be able to say that I worked hard and learned some medicine, but still had time to enjoy all that the bay area has to offer!
If you have any questions regarding SCVMC or intern year in general, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!