Context Internship is a time of great transition, during which mood disturbances
are common. However, variations in mood and empathy levels throughout the
internship year have not been investigated.
Objective To examine mood patterns and changes in empathy among internal medicine
residents over the course of the internship year.
Design Cohort study of interns involving completion of survey instruments at
4 points: time 1 (June 2000; Profile of Mood States [POMS] and Interpersonal
Reactivity Index [IRI]), times 2 and 3 (November 2000 and February 2001; POMS),
and time 4 (June 2001; POMS and IRI).
Setting Internal medicine residency program at a university-based medical center.
Participants Sixty-one interns.
Main Outcome Measures Baseline scores of mood states and empathy; trends in mood states and
empathy over the internship year.
Results Response rates for time 1 were 98%; for time 2, 72%; for time 3, 79%;
and for time 4, 79%. Results of the POMS revealed that physicians starting
their internship exhibit less tension, depression, anger, fatigue, and confusion
and have more vigor than general adult and college student populations (P<.001 for all). Results of the IRI showed better baseline
scores for perspective taking (P<.001) and empathic
concern (P = .007) and lower scores for personal
distress (P<.001) among interns compared with
norms. Five months into internship, however, POMS scores revealed significant
increases in the depression-dejection (P<.001),
anger-hostility (P<.001), and fatigue-inertia
(P<.001) scales, as well as an increase in IRI
personal distress level (P<.001). These increases
corresponded with decreases in the POMS vigor-activity scores (P<.001) and IRI empathic concern measures (P
= .005). Changes persisted throughout the internship period.
Conclusions We found that, in this sample, enthusiasm at the beginning of internship
soon gave way to depression, anger, and fatigue. Future research should be
aimed at determining whether these changes persist beyond internship.