Things To Know Before You Start Residency

Hello World! It has been a long while I showed up on this side of things but I am glad to be back here. I want to share some very important tips that will be helpful for anyone planning to start residency program in the United States of America. You need to be aware of these things. I realized that we put in a lot of effort to prepare for the moment leading up to the match, but not many people are adequately equipped with all the right information needed before residency actually starts. 

However, before I proceed, I need to say "congratulations!" It is a huge feat that you are at this point and you should never forget that. You deserve all the accolades. A few pieces of advice from someone almost at the very end of a journey you are just about to start. These are a bit unconventional because I do not typically mince my words. If you take to these pieces of advice, in the words of one of my favorite interns, ‘you will be in good shape’. 

1. Get an index card and document this joy and excitement you feel now. I call mine the ‘gratitude card’. Document all the enthusiasm and joy flooding your heart at this time. You will need it in the nearest future. It will remind you of how you started and help you re-focus when residency gets tough. I am sorry, but the truth is that it will get tough. A dear friend gave me this advice and it was quite helpful.

2. Come into residency with a mindset to be better daily. It is a learning curve, but eventually you will find your pace & place and you will be fine eventually.

3. Study daily. Even if it is a few pages. Read about your patients. Use upToDate a lot plus any resources applicable to your specific specialty. Your life will get very busy but you need to create time to read.

4. Have a notebook and write down one special thing you learnt that day. An ICU attending gave us this advice. It is golden. Now I have four such notebooks!

5. Be friendly. Make a lot of friends of your colleagues, nurses and hospital staff, but never forget that not everyone is your friend. Not everyone will have your back. It is a sad reality but that is life.

6. Identify a great mentor very early on. In choosing a mentor, make sure it is someone who has your genuine interest at heart. Someone who truly wants to see you win. 

7. If you are black by race, please be twice as good in everything. What others will get away with, you will not. Be very bold, loud and assertive. Know your stuff. Be confident.

8. Prioritize self care. Eat a healthy balanced diet as much as you can. Try to meal prep when you get your day off. Sleep well. Exercise regularly.

9. No matter what situation you are faced with in residency, be professional always.

10. Do not let residency take away your hobbies. When you are on a lighter rotation, still play that instrument, still dance, still paint, still write, still blog, still volunteer, etc.

11. Lean on your support system as much as possible. You will need them. Do not ignore them, do not "ghost" them and do not push them away.

12. After each block rotation, take yourself to the store, and buy yourself a special gift to reward yourself constantly for all your hard-work. Just don’t over-do it.

13. If you are in a relationship, it will be the toughest time in your relationship. Be intentional about your relationship. Plan activities to do together with your partner. Inculcate date nights into your schedule. Be more tolerant of each other. Be more forgiving. Increase your bandwidth of taking “crap”. Residency will increase your irritability levels rather quickly. You have a higher tendency to develop a short fuse and you might occasionally experience a “volcanic eruption” in your emotions. However, you will be okay, eventually.

14. If you are a mom, you need a supportive spouse and a live in nanny or a trusted family member. Get a nanny camera. Take time out to regularly look through to watch and listen to the recorded videos.

15. Plan your vacation ahead of time.

16. Read at least a non-medical book a month.

17. Stay hydrated. Get a water bottle.

18. Don’t over-do coffee. 

19. Keep some emergency snacks in your bag for days when you will be too busy to get lunch. Also keep a packet of chewing gum in your bag for days you will be too sleepy on rounds. Thank me later.

20. Pray daily so that you do not make a mistake or fall into temptation. Pray for favor always.

Above all, never let residency change who you are at your very core. You are an amazing, kind, compassionate, loving and lovely doctor. You got this!

Rooting for you always,

Dr Funmi

"There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure."

-- Colin Powell


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