Dear intern: I see you. Yes — you over there. That unsuspecting look on your face tells me exactly what you must be thinking. You are no longer a medical student which means you are no longer invisible, or, at best, ancillary.
Two months ago, I woke up one morning at 5:30 a.m., as usual. I played my gym motivation playlist in the shower, ate oatmeal for breakfast, and headed out the door, as usual. I swore at the car that swerved into the lane in front of me without signaling, as usual. An hour later, I pre-rounded on one of my favorite patients, a man with wide, childlike eyes who had a great deal of difficulty expressing his feelings.
My partner Evan’s third year of residency completed his trajectory toward what is commonly called “burnout.” Two out of the 10 residents in his class left the program. In an already understaffed department, the remaining residents picked up the slack, taking extra call and working longer days. The general misery index among his cohort skyrocketed.
Overwhelmed and exhausted, a resident recently came to me to ask, “Can we do something about call?” Defeat and despair had taken over his psyche. He felt unable to cope with the tasks of residency, including the seemingly never-ending demands of fielding consults, pages and patient needs. He imagined that the problem could be solved by taking less overnight call.
The faint glow that is the light at the end of the tunnel hits my face as I realize that intern year is almost over. One would think that having been through the personal loss I have — losing two beloved older brothers at a young age — that intern year would be more than manageable. Yet this past year has been, for me, a chaotic roller coaster ride.
When I took a job as a residency coordinator in graduate medical education at a local community hospital, I made myself a promise: I will not date a resident. They’re too busy, we work together, and we have nothing in common.
The recent ruminations of Drs. Katsufrakis and Chaudhry in the form of an invited commentary in Academic Medicine, entitled “Improving Residency Selection Requires Close Study and Better Understanding of Stakeholder Needs,” has garnered a significant amount of attention on Twitter. Drs. Katsufrakis and Chaudhry’s commentary was in response to a well-written and well-reasoned article by a group of medical students published in the same journal recommending the USMLE Step 1 transition from a numeric score to pass/fail.
Now that you, the reader, have become house staff, the time has come to change your mindset from one of competition to one of collaboration with your peers. The path that leads to achieving the MD or DO degree is one of often single-minded pursuit of academic victory. The competition has been fierce.
Neurology resident physician Nita Chen, MD journals through her first year of residency in her graphic medicine column, Pocket Doodles: My First Year as a Physician.
One of the trickier things to learn as a young doctor is how to navigate boundaries between patient, doctor, family and friends. Medical school teaches us that it is unethical to treat yourself or your close family due to a lack of objectivity that can affect judgement. It is fairly obvious why doing otherwise can create poor medical care due to blind spots created by subjectivity, hope, selective listening, personal agendas, and bias for a certain approach to treatment.
Medical training and practice exposes us simultaneously to the beauty and tragedy of life. As a resident, you are thrown into a strange world in which death will often sit as an unwanted companion in the room with you and your patient.
The hospital is a stage and rounding is the show. It’s a daily performance, a dance of sorts, that takes place each morning on the floors. The performers congregate outside a patient room.