Top Ten Books for Surgical Interns

This list is part of a series of articles about the best books for medical students. Click on the Med School Books Main Page to see other lists including the best books for each year in medical school, the best books for each clinical rotation, and the best books for USMLE Steps 1, 2, and 3.

The surgical internship is unique in that you will care for the full spectrum of patients: acute surgical patients, post-operative patients, patients with chronic illness, and very sick patient in the ICU. The surgical intern is truly a "Jack-of-all-trades" physician and must be able to reconcile huge med lists, manage diabetes, identify an acute abdomen, and take care of acute electrolyte changes in the ICU.

These are tall orders for a newly minted doctor. And don't forget, after 7am you will likely be the only one on the floor while the rest of your team heads to the operating room. Having the right books is one easy way to calm some of the inevitable anxiety. After much discussion with interns and residents at my last two hospitals, I have compiled the following Top Ten Books for Surgical Interns. These books are also great resources for preliminary surgery residents, or other surgical supspecialistis completing a general surgical internship. Most of the general surgery residents I spoke to agree that this list remains the same into their entire residency. Good Luck!

  • Updated May 2015

1. The Mont Reid Surgical Handbook:

The Mont Reid Handbook is a great reference tool to keep in your pocket or on your phone. It was written by a group of surgical residents and is very high yield. It will cover the majority of issues you run into while managing the floors during a surgical internship. It is also great for reviewing for OR cases…if you get to see any during your first year.

2. Surgery On Call:

Surgery On Call is another great pocket reference. The goal of this book, however, is more in the initial evaluation and treatment of surgical patients. The quick-reference format is great for a quick consultation. Some interns also suggest Surgical Recall , which has a similar format but is geared more towards 3rd and 4th year medical students. 

3. A Textbook: Cameron, Current Surgical Therapy:

Every surgery resident, even surgical interns, will benefit from a great surgery text. Many of you will be provided a text at the start of residency, so ask your department before investing hundreds in one of these books. Cameron's Current Surgical Therapy is the highest rated by surgical residents. However, there are other great options. Greenfield's Surgery is well-regarded and cheaper than Cameron's. There are also many people who swear by the Sabiston Textbook of Surgery

4. Tarascon Pocket Pharmacopedia:

While we all have access to online pharmaceutical indexes during residency, I agree with most interns and residents that a pocket manual like this great Tarascon book is far faster and more reliable than most online resources.

5. The ICU Book:

You really should get an ICU book. You can get through your first month as an intern in the SICU or MICU without one of these books, but they make your life so much easier that it is just not worth it. Even if you just read through it a few weeks before starting in the ICU, the information will be fresh on your mind and will help you a lot. This is the ICU book I used, it addresses both medical and surgical intensive care issues. Many residents also like The Little ICU Book

6. The Washington Manual Internship Survival Guide:

This is a lesser-known internship manual written by the same people who developed the highly rated medication reference, The Washington Manual of Medical Therapeutics. Not as well known as the Mont Reid manual, this is a book from a similar mold with a small but vocal cult-following.  

7. Zollinger Atlas of Surgical Operations:

A surgical atlas is the best way to learn the anatomy and prepare for pimping in the OR. A great surgical atlas will become one of your most important references during residency. If you are a general surgery resident, Zollinger's is the go-to atlas for most residents. 

8. Operative Dictations in General Surgery:

Dictating operative notes is a necessary evil. It has to be done, and it has to be done well for documentation purposes. As the low man on the totem pole, the job of dictation will fall on you. This is a highly recommended book to help interns and residents early in their career. I have a number of procedure note templates available on this website.

9. The ABSITE Review (FISER):

Many surgical interns will complete residencies in specialties other than general surgery. For those of you moving on the general surgery after your internship, you should start studying for your ABSITE early. I know you are incredibly busy in the hospital, but when you have a minute you should keep an ABSITE review book and/or question book handy. The Fiser review comes highly recommended. Another book that many residents recommend is ABSITE Slayer.

10. Old-School and Out-of-Print:

After discussing books for surgical internship and residency with many people, there were two books that were mentioned many times but are no longer in print: The Cleveland Clinic Guide to Surgical Patient Management and The Surgical Intern Pocket Survival Guide . These two books come as high or more highly recommended than every other book on this list. Some residents say these were the most used books in their white coats. Unfortunately, you can no longer buy either of them new, but there are many used options.  


1 comment

  1. Rieley Scott

    This helped a lot. I am only in the 9th grade but we have to hit the books and start studing early. thank youu for the great advice. email me if you have more or so i can ask you questions.

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