Every July, recently graduated doctors from medical school transition into hospitals, clinics and surgical rotations. Doctors completing their internship year welcome second year with additional leadership roles. This period of transition is coupled with the pressure of doing well, the stress of proving your competency on attending rounds and the desire to receive respect from your team.
It is easy to get caught in a sea of confusion and frustration as you learn how to navigate new roles and new systems.
This is the exact right time to integrate habits that will support your success during residency and throughout your life and career. In the midst of mastering medicine, you have the opportunity to incorporate time management skills, prioritize responsibilities and figure out how to create some harmony and balance in your day.
Rather than waiting for overwhelm and burnout to occur, you must decide today to incorporate healthy, helpful strategies along the journey so that they become part of your natural flow. You will have easy access to them when the road as a medical professional gets rough.
Confidently transition into residency:
1. Be kind and gentle with yourself. There is a first time for everyone. Remember every nurse, doctor, practitioner and administrator had a first day, first week, first month and first year. This is a time for learning. We discover what works for some patients may not be applicable to all. We make adjustments and course correct along the way. We learn that there are times to be flexible, how to communicate with patients and how to get buy-in from the team.
We keep what works and build a foundation on it. Most importantly, we learn to keep our self-critic at bay so that we are open to receive feedback.
2. Let feedback pull you forward. The beginning tends to be the most challenging. It’s when your investment is high, and the return may be low. Often, despite your best efforts, you don’t get the results or feedback you hope for. Don’t despair. There are lessons in the feedback when you look beyond the initial sting. Let the lesson propel you to your next level of learning. What new information do you now have access to that you didn’t before?
3. Be curious and ask questions. Residency is the time to demonstrate the core medical knowledge you have mastered and apply it to patient care discussions. It is also a time to be curious and ask questions when clinical presentations or lab results do not neatly fit into the textbook description. Use your present knowledge as the foundation to continue to build and grow your medical knowledge. After all, medicine is a commitment to lifelong learning.
4. Decide to make the day matter. Venturing into something new can be overwhelming. Without a clear plan and strategy, stress and overwhelm sets in. You can make the decision that each day matters. Set the intention to put a new strategy in place and then track the results. Maybe you want to build in 30 minutes of reading each day. Maybe you want to hone your presentation skills. Maybe you want to build your confidence when speaking with patients and families. As your day unfolds look for time, even 15 minutes, to do something that will advance for your success.
5. Don’t go it alone. Most likely you had friends in medical school who you studied with and shared the challenges of medicine. In the midst of starting a new program or even a new year, you might be tempted to go it alone. You may not have figured out who you can trust and who will support you. Isolation is never the answer to combat overwhelm, frustration, stress and the pressure of residency. Isolation only leads you down the path to physician burnout. Stay connected to family and friends who love and want the best for you. Then look for peers and colleagues to add to your network. Next, expand your reach to preceptors and mentors who can support your medical journey.
Residency is the best time to set yourself up for lifelong success. Creating habits and practices that support you is beneficial today and for the future. It is completely natural to retreat after 24-hour shifts, high acuity patient loads and feeling overwhelmed. Instead of trying to figure it out on your own, develop the habit of connecting with mentors and coaches to assist you in recognizing your strengths and owning your value because medicine needs your gifts and talents.
Stephanie Wellington is a physician and can be reached at Nurturing MDs.
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