As I reflect on my first year of residency, it’s hard to believe that I’ve cared for nearly 500 patients spanning across multiple departments; floor medicine, ICU, ER, neurology, cardiology, and surgery. I’ve had the opportunity to perform one central line placement, three intubations, ran a code blue, and performed CPR in both the ICU and the ER. Though these procedures may seem daunting, I learned that confidence comes not just from mastering these skills, but from seeing firsthand how they can benefit patients.
I’ll never forget the moment I transitioned a patient to inpatient hospice for end-of-life care. Despite the sadness of the situation, it was an incredibly rewarding experience to ensure that the end of their life was as comfortable and dignified as possible. Conversely, for another patient, I started the workup on possible cancer. Though the uncertainty was hard, I knew that by being proactive, I was giving this patient the best chance at a positive outcome.
One of the most unique cases that I came across during my residency was seeing the first Monkeypox patient at my hospital. It was a truly enlightening experience and in progress to publish about the case, I am hoping to share knowledge of the disease with other professionals in my field.
But beyond the learning experiences, I was lucky enough to meet some amazing attending physicians who have become good role models for residents. These brilliant physicians led the way by showing what quality patient care looks like, how to relate to patients, and how to build a great rapport with colleagues. I’m eternally grateful for their guidance, and I know that what I learned from them will carry me through the rest of my residency and future career.
Admittedly, there were times when I felt like I was barely keeping my head above water. Some periods of shift lasting days or weeks at a time were truly draining. It was in these moments of fatigue that I was reminded again and again of the importance of my work as a resident. There is no higher privilege in life than being in charge of someone else’s health, of being responsible for their wellbeing in one way or another. Even when days are tough, knowing that I had a role in making someone’s life a little bit easier made it all worthwhile.
Of course, I didn’t do this on my own; I had the support of some amazing co-residents who shared my passion for patient care. We were in this together, learning from each other, collaborating, and helping each other grow. These are the kind of people who will make great attendings in just a few year’s time, and I’m honored to have met them and continue to work with them.
As I sit here, almost one year down, and a couple more to go, I can’t help but feel grateful for the journey so far. It’s been tough, but it’s also been so rewarding. The growth that I’ve seen in my confidence as a doctor and as a person is immeasurable.
There are moments that stand out in my mind, moments where I felt overwhelmed but pushed through anyway, and moments where I felt humbled and thankful just for being there. I know that there’s still so much more to learn and experience, but for now, I’m proud to have made it through my first year of residency.
No one really knows what the future holds, but I do know one thing: I’ll keep pursuing this career for as long as possible. I’ll keep striving to become a better doctor, to provide better health care, and to make a real difference in people’s lives. Because that’s what it’s all about: Making a difference that lasts a lifetime.
Ton La, Jr. is a physician and can be reached on LinkedIn.