In my last installment, I mentioned I would like to write about my process of getting into a residency program in the United States. As soon as I promised this, I remembered the number of steps involved, so please forgive me if I forget to mention something. The path has substantially changed since COVID and differs greatly by individual circumstance. What made the whole process so confusing was having to create multiple accounts and profiles for multiple websites; the next step was often unclear until I called the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) and explicitly asked for instructions.
There was a dark, empty space. / Stillness, / Where there should have been movement.
It’s only 7:15 a.m.? I can finish folding my clothes before I have to leave for clinic, I thought to myself. Though the day was young, I had already been quite productive — I started the laundry, made myself breakfast, picked up around my room, and even found time to journal briefly about the day before. Surely I could check one more thing off my to-do list.
Let’s start with a very brief introduction: Hello! My name is Aline, and I am an international medical graduate (IMG) from Germany. I used to work in Germany in internal medicine, where I have completed four out of five years of training. I would like to share my experiences, thoughts, and later also some of the processes and steps that got me here over the course of this new column.
In my home city of Washington, D.C., citizens have taken the changes brought on by COVID-19 very seriously; social distancing, masking and frequent hand hygiene are now routine. These days, I am startled when I see the bottom half of someone’s face out in public. Our homes have become our sanctuaries. In the hospital, however, much of our work continues unabated. Orders are written, notes are signed, lab work is drawn, imaging is performed. Housestaff are on the front lines with nurses, respiratory therapists and patient care technicians taking care of the sickest patients day-in, day-out.
When I first met Rita, she didn’t make things easy. She fired a barrage of questions at me, punctuating her litany with the dreaded blow to every resident’s ego — “Are you a student?” — before slouching back on her bed, sweat glistening on her gray-streaked temples as though she had run a marathon.
You could feel it in the air, in how the nurses double-checked the orders, how the attendings’ notes bloated in size, and even in how the patients, despite their general lack of knowledge towards the inner workings of the hospital, exuded mild apprehension. It was day one of the academic year, the day that the new interns — my new interns — started.
My senior and I had been on night float together for a few weeks. That night, the dimmed lights of the hospital corridors spilled into the workroom which was lit only by my computer screen, but that was enough. Despite the few months that I had been there as an intern, I could describe each inch of this room with my eyes closed.
Of all the fulfilling and purposeful vocations to pursue, we’ve ended up trying to find our footing in the vast and ever-changing maze of medicine. Propelled by some combination of privilege, perseverance, and circumstance, we became doctors — many of us with the noble drive to heal and support other humans through the physical and spiritual struggles of life.
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.
I am an intern physician currently enrolled in a residency program, writing anonymously for fear of of retribution. I am also chronically injured and disabled. In my time off from work, I’ve had the chance to reflect on being injured in residency, and one particular incident comes to mind.
“Good morning, I’m Dr. Watt and I’m going to be taking care of you today.”