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Monday Jun 05, 2017

Stay Kind, Stay Connected, Stay Well: Advice for New Residents

Editor's Note: First-year family medicine residents will soon begin orientation at their new programs. For those who can't wait, we asked our new physician bloggers what advice they have for interns. Feel free to share your own insights in the comments field below.

Natasha Bhuyan, M.D., Phoenix
I helped deliver a baby my intern year. It was an easy delivery with a loving, relaxed couple. The dad later asked me to stage a photo with me holding his son high in the air, mimicking a scene from The Lion King, while the nurses pretended to be animals in the background.

A few days earlier, I had cared for a patient in the hospital with pancreatitis. She wasn't a mystery diagnosis or particularly complex, but she stands out because I vividly remember her resilient tale of overcoming abuse and living in a domestic violence shelter.

I went home that week thinking about what a privilege it was to meet and care for these people. I thought, "How could anyone ever tire of this?"

Yet a few months later, I learned how.

For everyone, it's different. It wasn't the long hours that bothered me. Or the studying after work. Or all the extra activities I volunteered for. It was a multitude of random challenges and obstacles to providing inpatient care that built up over time, such as the hospitalist who blocked admissions and wanted to discharge patients as quickly as possible, or the subspecialist who was hostile when I called for a consult.

At some point in residency, I took the privilege of caring for patients for granted. I once sighed when I was paged for an admission. Then I discovered it was my pancreatitis patient from my first year. She had a new job and was living on her own. I scolded myself for my initial annoyance. This patient was a mother seeking my help, and the least I could do for her was provide excellent care and comfort.

It's easy to forget that patient care is a privilege, but I encourage new residents to always embrace the humanity of patients.

Kurt Bravata, M.D., Buffalo, Mo.
It's hard to believe that I am nearly four years out of residency. Thinking back to those days of training and preparation for my career, there are a few things I would advise for those following a similar path. I could delve deep into an exploration of the importance of adaptability, humility, patience, endurance, empathy, faith, confidence and physical fitness. However, for the purposes of this post, I want to focus on one thing: the benefits of involvement in your professional organizations (local and state assemblies, as well as national associations). Getting involved with one of these groups can help you stay grounded and focused during residency while also expanding your vision and providing a field of opportunities that may well lead to your first job outside of residency. It did for me.

Thanks to the encouragement and support of my peers, I had the privilege of serving as my hospital's resident representative to the New York State AFP during my intern year, and I served as the AAFP alternate resident-fellow delegate to the AMA in year two. Finally, I was the primary AAFP resident-fellow delegate to the AMA in my third year.

No matter what hardships I faced during residency, the inspiration and motivation I gained from staying connected with the medical community at large gave me an increased sense of goal-oriented momentum and helped me look beyond the drudgeries of the day-to-day to the rewarding life beyond the boards and wards.

There is something truly exhilarating about stepping outside of one's comfort zone into a deeper pond where equally passionate students, residents, fellows and seasoned physicians are working together for the good of the medical community as a whole.

It was a welcome reprieve for me to attend conferences in Chicago; Kansas City, Mo.; New York; and Hawaii during residency. Not only was I having fun trying to change the world in a low-stress, unguarded environment, I had the chance to get to meet influential people who ended up being the doorway to my career.

Check out the AAFP's opportunities for resident leadership roles

Beth Oller, M.D., Stockton, Kan.
Many of us enter family medicine because of the wide variety of skills and practice opportunities it offers. I went into residency certain that I would learn every skill offered and perform every one of them in practice. I quickly learned that there were things I wasn't interested in and often wasn't fantastic at. (Hello, colonoscopy, I'm looking at you.)

As a resident, it's helpful to remember that you might find it positive and necessary to drop skills or narrow focus later in your career. Referring some procedures to subspecialists might make sense for your practice. Some things may just not bring you the joy you thought they would, and so won't be worth your limited time and mental energy. You may find a good fit in a practice that doesn't do everything you were trained to do (no OB or ER, for example). Whatever the reason, remember that you'll have the power to make your practice fit your vision, and allow that vision to change as you work toward becoming an independent physician.

This shouldn't discourage you from cultivating a broad-scope practice, but rather should encourage you to pursue your passions, interests and strengths.

Benjamin "Frankie" Simmons III, M.D., Concord, N.C.
I remember the excitement I felt after graduating from medical school, knowing I was about to embark on the next phase of my professional growth -- residency!

Residency is an exciting and challenging experience, but it is important to take time for yourself. Here are a few tips to maintain balance amid a busy work schedule.

An important first step after moving into your new home and getting settled in is to take time during your orientation to explore your new city. Get to know the layout and begin discovering areas that you might want to explore further during the next three years.

Because you are working 80 hours per week, it is important to maximize your down time. The off days are prime opportunities to catch up on sleep, but it is also important to engage in activities that are relaxing and enjoyable, such has catching up with friends or pursuing hobbies.

Finally, make time for physical activity. This can seem impossible with a demanding work schedule, but it is important to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week. This will help with stress management and allow you to rest better at night.

These simple tips can add to your overall wellness during residency. Be well!

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The opinions and views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the opinions and views of the American Academy of Family Physicians. This blog is not intended to provide medical, financial, or legal advice. All comments are moderated and will be removed if they violate our Terms of Use.