GUEST BLOG: You've Got This! - A Former Resident's Take on Surviving Medical School
You've got this!
That's what I want to say to all of the medical students and residents in training. Finishing residency is one of those moments that you never think you'll see. It's a tantalizing promise of freedom from the equivalent of two full time jobs (a full-time/overtime employee + studying student). You don't even want to tease yourself with the thought. I should know - I just graduated! And I still want somebody to pinch me!
Looking back at the struggles I faced, I would say staving off burnout was the most difficult. Making time for family and loved ones was the next. And not beating myself up over being an absentee friend was the third. There are multiple more, but I'll keep it brief.
This is what I would like to share:
- Live in the present
- Find meaning and purpose (again and again) in your career
- Your medical training becomes about prioritizing
- We are our own harshest critic
- Multi-tasking is overrated
Live in the present. It's more difficult to do this in the era of scheduling and social media. We compare ourselves to people who are not in residency, then think of all the things or events we missed out on because we were working. Only compare yourself to your current situation. You are your own measure. Also, residents tend to put their lives on hold until they reach a specific deadline, e.g. "I'll join a gym during my 2nd year since I'll have more free time," or "I'll eat healthy during my next rotation." Do what you need to do now. Don't skimp on your wellness or health.
Find meaning and purpose in your career. We have an honorable profession, and it is a privilege to be able to serve as a clinician. Cramming for a test versus studying to save Ms. Patient are completely different. The first option is draining and the latter option is rewarding. Waking up at 4:30 AM to round on a full list is more distressing than waking up early to check on patients who depend on you. It's easy to forget why you chose this path. Set little reminders for yourself that you're doing this for a reason.
Prioritizing. Sometimes you just need to do the important things of the day that you can do. Don't fill the vase with little pebbles before you add the big stones. Take care of the big things first and then do what you can with the little things. Be realistic. You're not Superman, and none of us has mastered time travel. It's alright if you didn't get to design a wedding webpage (ahem, yes that was me). You won't get to everything and that is OK. Lastly, I'd like to emphasize that your health is of utmost importance. How can you take care of your patients if you don't take care of yourself first? How can you maintain your pace if you're skipping meals? Talk to your upper level colleagues or attendings about how they find time for physical wellness and how you can incorporate it into your routine.
We are our own harshest critic. I used to belittle myself about many things, such as how slow I was to read all of my articles or how unavailable I was for my friends who needed me. You know what? My reading rate slows down when I'm tired, so that makes me human. Also, my friends understood and still loved me after 8 years of training.
Multi-tasking is overrated. It doesn't save time. Don't exercise and study in the same sitting. Don't cook and read at the same time. Don't study while you're rounding. You just end up being absent for both tasks, do both poorly, and then have to repeat everything you were multi-tasking. Plus it adds stress; it doesn't alleviate it. Delegate trivial tasks such as cleaning or other chores. Pay someone if need be. Your time is valuable!
In summary, burnout can be triggered by overworking but can also be exacerbated by a lack of purpose or meaningful interactions. Set realistic goals for yourself. Make time to detox. Make time for your meals. Make time to hit reset. Make it a priority to live a healthy lifestyle. And when you don't have time to do all of these, follow the steps above. And just remember, you will reach the finish line. You've got this!
About the Author
Azeen Sadeghian, M.D. is a former chief resident and graduate at Tulane Department of Dermatology in New Orleans, LA. She received a bachelor of science in Biology at Louisiana State University and completed her medical training at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans. Azeen completed a Dermatology-focused Clinical Research Fellowship at Tulane Health Sciences Center. She currently serves on the American Academy of Dermatology State Society Relationship Committee and on the Louisiana Medical Society Council on Socioeconomics. Follow Dr. Sadeghian on Instagram @skinchickmd.
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