A flurry of emotions as internal medicine residency comes to an end

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As I come to the end of my internal medicine residency, I cannot help but experience a flurry of emotions. I am sure many of you, like myself, are feeling a whole host of sensations: relief at the fact that you have now completed over 23 years of education/training; exuberant joy when you click on your schedule and realize that you have no more 28-hour calls; and sadness when you realize you will be saying goodbye to some of the closest friends/colleagues you have ever worked with. I’ve always believed that camaraderie amongst co-residents is akin to the fellowship between soldiers during war, and while these bonds may be eternal, time and distance are inevitable.

But with these emotions, there is another one that I am sure is lurking in the shadows, one that I would like to bring to the light: fear. “Am I ready to be an attending?” “What if I don’t know something?” “What if I miss something?” It turns out, UptoDate doesn’t have a great article for this, so I decided to share some of my thoughts, based almost entirely on a compilation of the advice of those wiser than myself, with some of my own experiences sprinkled in.

First, they say there are no absolutes in medicine. While that may be largely true, the one thing that is always right is kindness. Kindness does not mean you have to agree with your patient or consultant on everything. Kindness does not mean you have to increase the opioids every time someone asks. Kindness does, however, mean that you see and treat each and every patient, nurse, physician, colleague, therapist, and family member for what they are—fellow human beings who deserve empathy and compassion, regardless of race, gender, religion, belief, attitude, or personality.

Just because you are an attending does not mean you have to know it all. This seems obvious, but every so often I find myself thinking, “Wow, how can I not know this? I’m the most senior member of the team.” Being the most senior member on the team doesn’t mean you have to know everything; it means you have to know how to get the information you need and have the humility to continue learning. Finishing residency is our license to continue a life long journey of learning and growth.

You are not alone. No sport is truly a one-person sport; I mean, even golfers have caddies. Whether you are going to become an academic fellow or a private hospitalist, medicine and life is a team game. Use your team. Your patient care and personal experience will be better for it.

Last but not least, love yourself. Early in our training, we are ingrained with values of resistance and resilience, urged to never show signs of weakness. Yet I would argue that the most important lesson residency has taught me is that despite some of the ridiculous demands of the job, at our cores, our most essential value and trait is our humanity. We, like all of our patients, will also feel tired, get sick, feel grief, sadness, and anger. We are vulnerable, and the sooner we realize it, the better we will be at everything we do.  If you don’t know something or are overwhelmed, ask for help.  If you are not well, take a sick day. Your most prized asset has and always will be your own health and happiness.

With that, I would like to thank each and every one of you for everything that you do, and congratulate you on yet another huge milestone. I wish you sunlight in your window always.

Moksha Patel is an internal medicine resident.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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