Residency is hard—but it doesn’t have to be miserable. We know there are things that anyone can do to be happier and more effective while a resident.
Having a good relationship with your classmates is a key to your happiness as a resident. Studies have shown that a good sense of team reduces burn out and improves satisfaction in residents. Invest time in getting to know them and go out of your way to support them. Negotiating for one fewer call night for yourself is probably not worth sacrificing good will and warm feelings among your classmates. Go ahead and offer to cover call for a sick classmate without asking to be paid back. Offer to see that extra patient for your classmate. Strive to take more call than anyone else. Feel everyone’s endorphins rise.
It turns out, exercise makes your brain work better. If you feel like you don’t have the time or experience to start exercising while a resident, try a Seven Minute Workout
. (There are many apps for that.) It’s a short, scientifically tested
high-intensity interval training set that requires no equipment. If 7 minutes is too short, you can do 2. If they become too easy, you can add weights. If you find these to be too boring, consider following along with a YouTube channel such as The Body Coach TV
, or using apps such as Nike Training Center (Free) for guided workouts.
You may be thinking that we’re sounding a lot like your mother. But eating poorly as an intern is not an inescapable reality. By applying the principle of implementation intention
, you can create a system where eating better can be easier. Make the choice in advance to have healthy foods easily accessible to you. Don’t leave it to your underslept, hangry, post-call self to make the best choices.
You don’t have to be able to bend the capsulorrhexis edge just with your thoughts to benefit from meditation. Mindfulness meditation can reduce anxiety, improve cognition, and reduce distraction. Try an app like Headspace
to guide you through a short meditation session. Make it a habit to reap the benefits.
A common adjective to describe the job as the beginning resident is thankless. Gratitude journaling involves answering the question “What am I grateful for today?” daily. This can increase your happiness quotient and may make you a better human in the process. Try an app like DayOne or just the Notes app that comes with your phone.
Mentorship can be a powerful guiding force, particularly early in residency. Faculty and residents can be both informal and formal mentors. Mentors can help point you in the provide strategies for learning or research, connect you to their networks, provide an ear to listen to, and be a source of inspiration. Being an active mentee is an important part of the equation. Be proactive in reviewing goals and expectations with mentors and make the most of relationships in your department and institution.
Mental Health Resources
The first year of residency will undoubtedly have its stressors. It’s important to take inventory of your mental health periodically and recognize when you might need to seek help. Most institutions will have mental health resources available to house staff including counseling, help lines, and referral services. Don’t hesitate to take advantage of this help. Identifying and dealing with small problems before they become big ones can help set you on the right path to succeed in residency.