The resident’s training can be compared to the one received by Navy Seals or U.S. Marines in many ways. Physical endurance, psychological warfare towards the trainee, long service hours and quick life or death decisions are all aspects of both types of preparation. In most cases, this turns out to be a great burden on the resident’s life, especially on the interns, whose lives have dramatically changed from one day to another. A careful balance is needed in any resident’s life in order to preserve that which is most precious: health, both mental and physical.
How can this equilibrium be found when the young doctor is being attacked with ceaseless testing, constant need for approval, steadfast paperwork and sleep deprivation? The answer is simple: prioritize. Job interviewers for the most important companies in the world will find it discouraging if you put your career or job as the ultimate priority in your life. Personal frustration, depression and unhappiness are common denominators when this route is taken. Physicians take a particular decision when choosing their career, and sacrifice is imperative when seeking for patient’s well-being. The patient should be the main priority in your work, but your work should not be the main priority in your life. Here are 6 key ideas I recommend you keep in mind in order to maintain the balance in your everyday life.
1. Sleep, but don’t sleep your free time away. Sleep is an invaluable resource in the resident’s life. Nonetheless, try not to consume most of your free time sleeping. All odds point to you waking up feeling frustrated that you did not interact with the outside world. Have a rejuvenating snooze and wake up ready to rock and roll.
2. Make some time for your friends and family. A common source of stress is family and friends claiming some quality time. In most scenarios the resident doesn’t feel able to fulfill social expectations with friends and family, and fears they don’t understand his or her tight schedule. Try to check this off the list, and enjoy their company instead of feeling guilty about not seeing them.
3. Sweat a little stress out. Physical activity has always been the mainstay of all round well-being. If you don’t have a particular sport or activity you practice, choose one you find interesting and try it out. Be assured that it will reflect on your hospital duties from day one.
4. Enjoy the arts and culture. Anything from a movie or concert to a photography display can help put your mind and soul at peace. Try to stay connected to events happening around town. Subscribe to a cultural newsletter in your city and get all the information in your email every day. Most of these activities are free and will give you a fair distraction from the hospital buzz.
5. Date. “I don´t have time for dating” is the falsest phrase since “I’m not a crook.” Giving yourself time to nurture your romantic life is a wise choice. Don’t block opportunities for meeting new people or going out. If you already have a significant other try to keep the spark alive, residency can be a mean relationship killer.
6. Study and be organized. Remember that your patients are still going to be waiting for you when you go back to work tomorrow. Be organized so that all of these activities will still leave some time to read and stay up-to-date on your academic responsibilities.
Being a good resident should be your main concern. But never forget that happy and satisfied residents do much more for their patients.
Cesar Lucio is a pediatric resident in Mexico who blogs at Sin Estetoscopio.
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