What to Expect as a Medical Resident

What to Expect as a Medical Resident

May 18, 2020 Published by Kathrin O'Neill

Table of Contents

Going through the grueling process of the match process is a roller-coaster ride of emotions and is only the start of the next journey after finishing medical school. Successfully getting a match for a residency program is the culmination of years of hard work and sacrifice and most might think it is a great time to celebrate but the reality is, the journey has begun, doctor.

Medical Residency brings itself a new set of challenges that you spent preparing for in medical school and more often than not, new medical residents often find themselves overwhelmed in the first few weeks of their residencies.

How to Prepare Your First Week as a Medical Resident

Your preparation should start from the minute you applied for the National Residency Matching Program. The matching process is in itself is a big challenge emotionally and mentally and it peaks during the coming of matchday where the mental anguish of waiting for the life-changing envelope arrives where the name of the hospital you have been matched with is enclosed. The dread of the uncertain and not knowing where you end up or whether or not you get what you want leads most into an uncertain pause on their lives only to be suddenly yanked unprepared to reality when the results of the matching process come barrelling to them at full speed.

1. Prepare Emotionally

Getting successfully matched to a residency program is truly a life-changing and career-changing moment and each one of us has his/her own way of coping emotionally. After the emotional high of matchday most will realize that the sense of euphoria is quickly being replaced by anxiety and nervousness as the start of your residency looms closer. Always remember that you spent years of medical school for this moment and face the challenge head-on with confidence.

Medical residents especially those in critical care or emergency face the risk of emotional trauma on a daily basis. Life, death, and everything in between is part of the job and new medical residents must be able to cope with this reality on top of their work.

The best way to stay emotionally healthy is to stay connected with your family, friends, or peers. Having an outlet for your emotions allows you to confide and be honest about your feelings.

2. Prepare Mentally

Stress is a given in your first years as a medical resident and the risk of a burn-out is very real and it is because of this that the Resident Service Committee of the Association Program Directors in Internal Medicine (APDIM) has divided stress into several categories.

  1. Situation Stressors are derived from your environment and can include sleep deprivation because of the new surroundings or excessive workload.
  2. Professional Stressors include having to make decisions that could mean life or death, Professional development, and competence and maintaining professional relationships.
  3. Personal Stressors are caused by pressure from personal relationships, lack of free time, and inadequate time with friends, and family.

Too much stress can have a negative impact on your health and well-being which can lead to anxiety, lack of sleep, poor diet, and potentially depression. Learning to cope with these types of stresses will allow you to mentally prepare for the challenges that lie ahead of your medical residency program.

3. Prepare Physically

Your first weeks and months in your medical residency program is a big change from your usual daily routine and sleeping habits that it can take a heavy physical toll. During your actual residency, you may no longer have enough time to go to the gym so its best to start early on the road to physical fitness. Working on your cardio and endurance will help you get a head start in overcoming long hours making rounds in the hospital.

More importantly, having a healthy and balanced diet will go a long way to help your body overcome the many stresses of medical residency.

The Importance of Emotional, Mental, and Physical Wellness

As doctors, it is pretty much self-explanatory why being emotionally, mentally, and physically fit is important not only in ensuring that you are able to do your tasks correctly and properly but also ensure that you are able to make it through your residency altogether. Being prepared allows you to anticipate the challenges of your new environment and also allows you to adjust to your new surroundings and working environment.

Other Things to Prepare for Your Medical Residency

On top of preparing yourself emotionally, mentally, and physically, life still goes on, this means that your bills are still coming and you also need to be financially prepared especially if your residency takes you to a new place.

1. Housing

Housing, in most cases, takes a big chunk of your budget. Most new medical residents often want to find a place to live that is close to the hospital to cut commute time. Another important factor when choosing a place to call your home during your residency is how close it is to basic necessities like a grocery store, restaurant, gym, or even a coffee shop. Every hour saved from commuting is another hour that you can allocate for personal time.

2. Living Expenses

Living expenses can have a huge difference between states and cities so you need to balance your living expenses wisely. Always make it a point to set aside a portion for fun and leisure like a monthly coffee budget, spa budget, or even a budget for a gym membership or yoga classes.

3. Your Family and Friends

Your family and friends can be a significant source of support throughout your medical residency. Be sure that you also prepare them on what lies ahead for you and how it affects your relationship with them. They may feel that you are ignoring them where in fact you were too busy to have the free time to spend with them so its best that you tell them in advance.

Always Stay Positive

Your medical residency will help you grow and become a great doctor. It is always a journey that is filled with hardship and challenges but making the right preparations ahead will allow you to cope with your new environment.