How to perform well on an acting internship

An acting internship represents a unique opportunity and challenge for medical students. The acting internship is a nice transition from clerkships to intern year adding volume and responsibility to your workload. Acting internships are important for your residency applications as letters of recommendation often stem from these experiences.

You want to perform well and demonstrate an intern level skill set. Here are tips on what you can do to excel on your acting internship.

blue and silver stetoscope
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Be Proactive

It can be hard to know your role as a medical student on a service, particularly if you don’t get clear guidance from the residents. Reduce your time wondering about what you should be doing and be proactive. Pay attention for phrases such as “can someone check into…”, “let’s followup on…”, “drain needs to come out on…”. Volunteer to complete these tasks and report back once the task is complete or information acquired. These are skills you will want to have as an intern and you look good if you are already performing at that level on your acting internship.

Be Present

On a busy clinical service, there is something to be said for just being present and available to help throughout the day. Get there when the intern arrives in the mornings. Help out with pre-rounding tasks and making the list. Ask the intern how you can be most helpful and follow their guidance.

Mentally prepare for grueling and long days. Never ask to leave. If a chief resident tells you to leave, then don’t hesitate to do so. Bring snacks in your backpack for days when you can’t run down to the cafeteria. You very much need to take care of yourself so you can perform at your fullest when you are at work. That being said, being on an acting internship you should strive to be a reliable team member that is present and willing to work hard.

Be enthusiastic in all tasks that you complete. Try to not allow your tiredness, hunger, or frustrations to manifest. It is hard, but it is temporary. Rely on your grit to get you through each day.

“Reduce your time wondering about what you should be doing and be proactive.”

Dr. Carter J. Boyd, Founder, Med Student Edge

Know the Patients

Know the patients on the service. You will often be assigned your own patients to follow on admission days. Know every detail of those patient’s care. You have to make a conscious effort to do so, because nurses are not calling you with the issues big and small that come up throughout the day. Read the nursing, social work, physical therapy, and consult service notes and check in with the resident if there were any major events or calls throughout the previous day so you are prepared for rounds in the morning.

Pay attention to the other patients on your service. You likely will be asked to followup on lab results or handle some task related to patients that you are not directly following. It is helpful if you already have a good background of the patient and the treatment plan when assisting in those tasks.


The best way for you to know how to be helpful is to ask the residents what your role is on the team. If they will let you write notes, write notes and write them well. Whatever tasks you can do to make the residents’ life easier is the key. Ask them so you have clear assignments and expectations. Still, the overarching theme of an acting internships is to make everyone’s life above you easier. If there is something you see that you could be doing that would help the team and improve patient care, do it.

Acting internships are great educational experiences and can be extremely rewarding. Work hard and get the most out of your rotation.

What specialty are you doing an acting internship in? What questions do you have about acting internships? Post your questions below in the comments or contact us directly.

Back to more clinical rotation resources.

Carter J. Boyd, MD, MBA
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