5 Survival Tips for the Intern Year of Residency
** Today's Post is Authored by the other 1/2 of LegallyMed, Doctor D.O. - Noah **
So you're sitting at home marveling at the official title of “Doctor of (Osteopathic) Medicine” bestowed a little over a month ago upon yourself and tens of thousands of new graduates from Medical Schools across the US.
The questions start rolling to the forefront of your Brain: “Am I really done?” …“ Wait. Those four years are really over?”… “Am I sure this is not a dream?”…..”Am I now Dr. (Insert Name)”?
Well fellow colleagues of mine (Yes! We are in fact colleagues at this point) the answer is YES! To all the above questions. The Good News: Congratulations! You have endured and maintained the mental stamina to overcome four tedious and challenging years of medical school. The Bad News: Congratulations! You begin Residency in less than 6 days as a “NEW INTERN”.
Many words have been delivered to you from higher-ups to describe the First Year of RESIDENCY: “Torture, Painstaking, Relentless, Onerous, Rigorous, Soulless, etc.”…LOL. I will stop there as I can almost feel the weight of your anxiety and fear as you read this. So now it’s time to remedy your worries and concerns with some crucial “SURVIVAL TIPS AS AN INTERN”.
As a rising third year family medicine resident I feel more than obligated to hand down 5 essential tips that I believe will guide and preserve your sanity in this upcoming year. Let’s Begin Shall We.
Survival Tip #1: “You Are the Doctor”
-This is a critical entry point as you begin your first step on the Wards as “Dr. (Insert Last Name)” and no longer “Student Doctor (Last Name)”. It’s completely understandable to feel less than worthy of that title in practice but in truth YOU EARNED THAT TITLE! And should not feel ashamed to proclaim it. You must take advantage now before you’re in too deep to understand what your role is at this level of your medical training. INTERN: You are the boots on the ground. The Work-A-Holic. The Eyes and Ears to all that will be discussed about the 4 to 5 patients you will be tasked with seeing and managing on day 1. Introduce yourself with confidence and command the attention of your patients. It will feel gut wrenching but in due time it will become second nature. This helps to develop the roles as PATIENT-PROVIDER.
Survival Tip # 2: “BE HUMBLE”
-Seems common sense but it’s a HARD LESSON LEARNED by many new Interns. Part of knowing your place in the new atmosphere of residency is respecting that YOUR NEW TO THE TEAM OR CULTURE rather. The Administrators, Nurses, Cafeteria workers, Custodial workers, Maintenance staff, and Parking Lot workers all have SOOO much more wisdom and experience than you. You must do everything possible to become a friend and servant to your hospital community. The title of “Intern” does not give you the immediate upper-hand to look down on your other team members I mentioned above. HAVE GOOD RAPPORT with them and they will do ALL they can (literally) to support your training and guide you. MAKE A FOOL OF YOURSELF and TRY TO IGNORE THEM and they will make these next 3 to 7 years a LIVING NIGHTMARE for you. Learn from the stories of residents who came and either succeeded or failed to befriend them before you. Cherish them and always appreciate the work they contribute to the overall operations of the facility you were fortunate to be accepted to.
Survival Tip #3: “YOU DO NOT KNOW EVERYTHING”
-Medicine evolves almost at the rate the Sun rises and falls within a 24 hour period. You must take a moment to stop and truly remind yourself with the question at the start of your work day. “WHAT AM I WILLING TO LEARN or LEARN MORE ABOUT TODAY THAT I DID NOT KNOW YESTERDAY?”We as physicians have been called and assigned a high purpose to act and advocate for the best standards of medical practice to be employed to our PATIENTS! Take every available second you may have when not managing THE “SCUT WORK” to research new trials or studies on disease topics,management protocols for certain diseases, or new guidelines from national medical societies or organizations. The POINT I am really getting at is DON’T GET COMPLACENT with what you’re being taught. Question everything and be driven to explore the knowledge you are receiving for yourself.
Survival Tip #4: “LISTEN TO YOUR PATIENT NOT THE COMPUTER”
-Yes it’s here and here to stay. Electronic Medical Records. They come in different forms, models, and all those other technicalities I am under qualified to share. The reality is that they were rolled out in an effort to make the delivery of high quality, patient centered care simpler and efficient. Yet it seems in this modern era of medicine we have almost subconsciously devoted our attention to listening, touching, and seeing what a COMPUTER SCREEN tells us instead of what the actual PATIENT and their physical examination tells us. LADIES and GENTs this is a flaw so deeply entrenched into the fabric of medicine that you as the newcomers must compel yourselves to avoid. Medicine is an ART and to master this ART is to study daily the education that comes from listening, touching, and hearing your PATIENTS. A computer screen may provide you with an orderly array of patient data collected from labs, tests, or prior records but it will NEVER EVER replace the golden rule. “PATIENTS COME FIRST”.
Survival Tip #5: “YOU ARE A HUMAN NOT A ROBOT”
-Through trial and error we have witnessed in studies what physician burn-out and or fatigue looks like. Hey Fellow colleagues there is a reason we actually do SLEEP. An 80hr work week is in no way considered normal by the general workforce population. We have heard the same tune sung by Old Timer Docs. “You’ve got it easy, in my day we didn’t have any DUTY HOUR regulations. You worked until you were told to go home.” Yea Yea Blah Blah Blah. Tell me how that worked out for the three divorces you went through and relationships with your children you failed to maintain because your WORK came first? I respect the past of medicine for what it has taught us. You as a new intern however need not rewrite history by attempting to prove your competence by staying up 24+ hours to show yourself up. I’ve got news for you buddy. YOU LOOK RIDICULOUS. These measures and regulations are to be upheld by you to remind you that you are in fact not a machine but a compilation of flesh and bones designed to expend energy but also RECOVER when necessary to be restored and ready for action. You must maintain a healthy balance in your family life(if you are married with kids like myself), personal life (travel, exercise, or find a hobby for Christ’s sake), and spiritual life (prayer, meditation, yoga, etc.). Your PATIENTS deserve your absolute best performance and if you’re not willing to deliver on that promise do us all a favor and FIND another profession before your risk hurting yourself and others around you.
OK so look, these next few days will go by fast in your mind. But we all get 24 hours in a day. Take some time to acknowledge these 5 pearls of wisdom within yourself and then TAKE OFF! We have all been there and I am still applying these same key elements daily at my current level of training.
Hope this helps guys! A huge kiss & hug to my beautiful Wife Tekey for allowing me to take some of the Shine on the blog.