The Art of Remembering Your Role

From the very first day of medical school, doctors-in-training (residents) are molded into competent practitioners.  TV glamorizes this as a nearly overnight process, when in reality becoming a physician with the wealth of knowledge patients expect and deserve takes nearly a decade to cultivate.  Ten years are just the start, because I’m only referring to medical school (4 years) plus an average-length residency program (3-4 years).  Our graduation ceremony is only six days away; it’s made me think about… everything!

Many new attending (full) physicians tell me they learned the most during the first couple of years post-residency.  For those who seek specialization (like myself), this formal training period often adds 3-4 years (called ‘fellowship’), for a total training time of 10-11 years.

The Love of Medicine & ‘Senioritis

It’s OK to take time for yourself.  I love my career.  I love taking care of patients, seeing them heal, and feel better.  I am grateful for the privilege to practice medicine.  To add the proverbial cherry on top, I also have the opportunity to teach patients, families, nurses, and students everything I know about medicine.  In my opinion, practicing medicine as a doctor is my life’s greatest accomplishment.

Internal Medicine residency is three years.  If you ask for an (honest) opinion, 99% of graduating internal medicine residents will tell you in the last month of residency training, they caught a case of “senioritis.”  Definitions vary, but basically it’s the temporary sensation of nearing the end of a program with the desire to take up old (or new) hobbies.  Yes, even doctors are humans!  Doctors have emotions, too!

Each resident assuages their end-of-the-year senioritis with fun/relaxing hobbies.  Everyone goes about it differently.  I can tell you that I’ve taken up video games (Xbox, and recently PC) once again, a favorite pastime of mine.  I re-introduced myself to exercise.  I look at it as catching up on fun hobbies that, for much of residency, took a backseat.  There are innumerable stories from friends/colleagues that paint a similar picture.

Next Steps

Productive change is always good.  I define it as any action or change in thought pattern that improves my career and quality of life.  With the end of residency comes the start of a new journey.  However, emerging from the senioritis mindset takes a bit of encouragement.  Before I begin fellowship, I remind myself that reading textbooks and studying question banks serves one primary purpose:  improving medical knowledge for the benefit of patients.

It is with that concept in mind that I tell myself to once again get into “study mode.”  My ABIM exam is in August, and with a long-distance move up north to start fellowship, marks busy days ahead.  Productive change! 🙂

Photo credit:  Simon Migaj

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