7 Helpful Tips in Surviving Your First Year of Medical Residency

7 Helpful Tips in Surviving Your First Year of Medical Residency

May 16, 2020 Published by Kathrin O'Neill

Table of Contents

Residency is a huge jump from med school and not everyone can grasp how competitive and exhausting it can be. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the brightest one in your class or it took you extra years to get to the finish line of academics. Intelligence can only take you so far, and every medical resident can buckle under the stress of grueling years of residency.

Now you’ve conquered medical school, it’s time that you prepare yourself for another career milestone. Such a critical moment in medical training needs preparation. Here are some ways you can physically and mentally prepare yourself to survive and thrive the most exhausting and intense, yet rewarding, years of your career.

1. Rest Before Your Residency

Rationalize that urge to jump headfirst into residency right after you graduate in med school. You might feel the pressure to continue pursuing the next phase of medical training immediately but learn to take a breather.

Burnouts are common so you must let yourself physically and mentally recover from your days as a medical student. Catch up on sleep, get yourself a social life that you’ve been self-depriving in exchange for academics, and most importantly, relax. Take a moment to celebrate that you survived med school and on the way to jumpstarting your career.

2. Form Social Relationships With Your Colleagues

Gone are the days where you spend a lot of time studying alone. The brutal mental outlook of individuality in the survival of the fittest in med school is not applicable in residency. This means that cooperation and being a team player should be the number one thing that you adapt.

To do that, you should get to know your colleagues and hospital staff. You’ll likely spend more of your time with them getting through long hours of shift rather than your own friends and family. Residency is way more intense than med school and you need to have a form of support system to survive it.

3. Understand that Knowledge Is Not Monopolized

You have to understand that every resident more or less starts on the same level of footing. While you might think that you know better or lesser than your colleagues, most of the time, it’s a wrong assumption. Medical knowledge and practice are not monopolized. It’s not beneficial for the hospital and the community when there’s only a handful of people in the hospital that knows what they’re doing.

So don’t be afraid to ask questions or help others who are asking. This is important especially when it comes to patient care where acting indecisively can cost a life. This means asking your seniors for help when needed regardless of how trivial the issue is.

Do your best to look for a mentor and even volunteer yourself in cases that you feel like it’s essential to your desired field. Every little boost in your first year will help you in the long run.

4. First Impressions Last

The first year of residency is always the hardest but that doesn’t mean that you earn a free pass when you let stress get to your behavior. Your reputation will follow you throughout your residency and your medical career. It’s not just about giving a good impression to your colleagues; your attitude will also reflect on your patients and how you care for them.

Humility and kindness will go a long way. Pouring gasoline to flame will not put out the fire. Being in a high-pressure work environment means that you should always keep your head clear to be able to give sound judgment.

5. Brush Up Your Organization and Management Skills

Those who are well-organized and have exceptional time management skills always shine through their first year of residency. Productivity is highly valued so you need every single thing that will help you push through that 80 hours a week.

Stay on top of your game and always be prepared for your cases. The best way to start is to observe your attendings on how they dissect and organize the logistics for each of their patients. Focus on attaining efficiency all the time so you won’t feel overwhelmed by the amount of workload you have.

6. Try To Maintain A Work-Life Balance

It’s easy to lose yourself in the daily grind of residency, especially in your first year. Is work-life balance attainable? Absolutely, but it’s a little bit different than you might expect.

Socializing with family and friends outside of the hospital will be challenging since they can’t fully grasp how residency looks like. Your workweek is drastically different from them and it’s easy for them to feel neglected. Which is why constant communication is important. An hour talking to them over the phone means a lot. Try to help each other when adjusting around your residency.

Just because you’re incredibly busy working at the hospital doesn’t mean that you can neglect your social life out of it. It’s healthier for you and for your loved ones to keep a balance between your work and your personal life. Simple and attainable socialize is better than none.

7. Learn To Deal With Yourself

Emotions run high at every step of your residency and it’s important to learn how to cope with it. One thing that medical school can never teach you is how to deal with the impacts of hospital life.

Coping with patient death for the first time is a hard blow for residents. You’ll feel that you are to blame for it and even neglectful with your duties. The only way to get past this is to move forward and understand that some things are out of anyone’s control.

Your first year as a resident will be daunting up to the point that it will bring you down and question your career choices. Whatever happens, it’s important to remember the reason behind your hard work and that the medical path you’re taking will all be worth it for you and to your patients.