Interview season is upon us and I cannot believe this is my fourth one. I love meeting all the interviewees and many ask about the transition between medical school and residency. How hard is it? Am I ready? Is it really that bad?
There aren’t quite the words to describe the leap from medical school to residency. For four years of medical school you are memorizing, reading, in the classroom and shadowing. You graduate and suddenly you have “MD” after your name and things change in an instant. You start day one of residency and people call you “doctor.” Nurses ask you for orders and you look behind you to see who they’re actually talking to. You get an overwhelming sense of anxiety when you realize it’s you!
Nothing anyone can say or do can really prepare you for that intern year. The learning curve is steep. The knowledge is vast. The pressure is high. You have to work together with this set of new people whose personalities may not mix. You have to learn at the speed of light. Patients lives are now literally in your hands.
Some words of advice that may help are below:
Be confident but not arrogant.
Nothing is worse than than the medical student that graduates and believes he knows everything. Even as a fourth year resident I know there is still a lot I don’t know. My attendings still say there is a lot they don’t know. So trust me, you don’t know it all. At the same time, the patients should still be able to trust you. You shouldn’t approach situations with fear and be timid. Act the doctor role when you walk into the room and become it. Look something up if you don’t know or ask your upper levels. Take advice from the nurses and staff. Some of them have been there for 20-30 years and have years of experience to help you. I can’t tell you the amount of times a nurse has come to the my rescue. You are not better than anyone. You are there to work as a team.
Read like crazy. Read about every patient. If you see a patient with a condition read about it that night, on your lunch break, while you’re going to the bathroom. The information comes at you like a broken fire hydrant. It seems almost impossible to keep up. But you can do it. Read journals, articles, textbooks and questions. These are things I wish I did and am just now beginning to do consistently as I am transitioning on my way out. No one can take your learning from you so take it seriously. This is your future. No one can read for you. No can learn for you!
I cannot express this enough. The most successful residents I see, work with and for the team. They don’t care if it requires a little extra work. They don’t complain when they have to stay a little bit later to get the job done. They are not selfish. The interns I have loved working with the most are the ones who come ready to work and know that residency is supposed to be hard. It’s not to break you although sometimes it does. It is to show you how to work under pressure and still come out on top. Ask what needs to be done. Take it a step further and anticipate what needs to be done before someone asks. How can you help the team? Do you need to set up discharges? Do you need to call outside hospitals for records? What do you need to do to help the flow of the workday? Identify it and do it. You will become invaluable
It is a blessing to be in this position. Many begin on the path to medicine but few ever finish. I still remember how our organic chemistry class dwindled down from the beginning of the year. Hell, I almost dropped organic chemistry. You are the chosen few. It is overwhelming the amount of responsibility we are given. Don’t let it go to your head. Remember what it took to get here. Remember your why. Remember how many exams and late nights and years it took to get to this place. Don’t take it for granted. Don’t demean people. Say hi to the custodian who cleans the call room. Tell the nurse thank you for helping you correct an order. Recognize that it a privilege to be where you are!
Lastly, remember why you started this journey in the first place. You will work so many hours, have so much stress, so much information that you can get caught up in a whirlwind of orders, patients and surgeries. You start to feel more like a robot than a person. The days start to run together. On days where you start to feel burnt out and overwhelmed think back to when you first applied. Think about studying for the MCAT or any of the USMLE exams. Think about how hard you worked and recognize you are right where you wanted to be. This is the beginning of the rest of your life. It begins July 1. Make it count.