Reflections on my First Weeks of Residency - Lauren Rys, DO
The days that I longed for, but also secretly wished to postpone, have finally arrived. Most of us have probably experienced a lot of mixed emotions regarding the start of residency. For some, there is still a level of uncertainty and sense of loss of control that comes with starting residency, especially during a pandemic. Others have been feeling a bit overwhelmed and intimidated about confronting the new and huge responsibilities that come with our chosen profession. A lot of us are feeling the stress that is caused by moving to a new city, finding housing, making new friends, paying relocation expenses, completing onboarding documentation…the list never ends.
But something we all probably have most in common is a sense of fear. New interns are afraid we may not measure up to expectations. Nursing staff is probably a little afraid of how new residents will affect team dynamics or potentially slow down patient care. Faculty and senior residents in this program do an immense amount of teaching, but even they might be a little afraid of the burden of training more than a handful of inexperienced interns. I’ve arrived at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center having already completed an intern year, and I can appreciate how daunting the load of residency might seem. I believe that every member of my team might have a reason to feel a little bit afraid, too. However, I know now from experience that there will come a day when the fears that look like mountains to us now will shrink to mole hills.
This is intern-year-round-two for me as I’ve already completed a general surgery preliminary year, so these common feelings of fear and performance anxiety are quite familiar. Last year I remember being fearful I may not be capable of being a “good enough doctor”, enduring long shifts, making new friends, and missing out on time with my family. This year I wouldn’t necessarily say I feel a whole lot more prepared or capable, but I’ve definitely picked up some coping skills and pieces of advice along the way that I think might be worth paying forward.
The most meaningful tip I’ve received regarding managing the stress and fears encountered during intern year has been:
“Post call thoughts aren’t real thoughts.”
It became my mantra when I started to feel overwhelmed in the face of exhaustion. What that statement really meant for me was to expect that I was going to feel defeated sometimes. No matter your perspective, there is no denying that what we do is hard. Just accepting that residency is discouraging at times really helped me cope with some of the longer, more difficult shifts. And although many might see doctor-ing as a solo sport, I’ve learned that it is more of a team sport than I had previously realized. A mentor once shared an African proverb with me:
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
This concept of togetherness is a survival strategy for us newbies and a victory plan for our seniors, and I’ve seen this modeled exceptionally well in the last couple of weeks. We are still only several days into this new year but the attitude of teamwork already has me excited to learn and grow with less fear of the growing pains. With the strength of the teamwork I’ve experienced only two weeks into my first block, I might even start to call intern year a little bit fun.