Residency Life

3 ways to save time on personal tasks during residency training

Brendan Murphy , Senior News Writer

AMA News Wire

3 ways to save time on personal tasks during residency training

Mar 19, 2024

As a resident physician working long shifts and running short on free time, accomplishing everyday tasks can seem to require extraordinary effort. As mundane as they might seem, chores such as cooking and cleaning can feel like climbing Mount Everest after a long shift or an 80-hour week. Physicians who have been through the rigors of residency training offered a few tips on how to keep your life on track outside of the clinic. 

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It is not uncommon for grocery stores to be open late—with some open all the time. So, for those night owls, stopping in for a quick shop in a relatively uncrowded supermarket is an option. There are also a number of delivery services—some of which can deliver meals with ingredients portioned and ready to cook—that can help ease the burden of this chore.

Taylor DesRosiers George, MD, formerly an emergency medicine resident at the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Virginia, would “minimize all of my homework as much as possible.” That included having “a vegetable delivery service” that came weekly to deliver fresh vegetables “to my door.” In addition, she hired a woman to help clean her home weekly.

“It’s one of the best investments I’ve ever made,” she said at the time. “To be able to come home to a clean house where everything is in order—it is such a great way to come back from a long shift.

“In my mind it’s all about task-offloading with anything you can. Whether it’s a meal delivery service or a dog-walker,” said Dr. DesRosiers, now a critical care and emergency physician. “They all cost money, and I know money is tight in residency, but some things are worth it.” 

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Illustration of resident looking at a diagnostic image

Even if you are wearing scrubs most days, laundry can pile up. Sending your laundry out to get it done by a service is the most time-effective, least cost-effective measure. Conversely, getting laundry done at a laundry mat is the thriftiest, most time-consuming measure. The happy medium may be renting or owning a place with laundry in unit.

The cost of in-unit laundry machines can be high. Depending on the city, some estimates say it could mean shelling out at least an extra $100 for rent every month. During residency, Tani Malhotra, MD, found the cost to be worth it.

“I can just throw my laundry in any time and then I’ll throw my clothes in the dryer, and I don’t have to worry about them,” Dr. Malhotra said when she was finishing up her stint as a chief resident in the ob-gyn program at York Hospital in Central Pennsylvania.

Prior to residency, Dr. Malhotra relied on shared laundry machines.

Before moving back to Cleveland to work as a maternal and fetal medicine specialist, Dr. Malhotra said, “That was one of my required criteria for housing: There has to be in-unit laundry. It’s non-negotiable.”

Preparing meals at home is often going to be healthier and cheaper. Still, the time and energy it takes to shop, then cook, then do dishes can be overwhelming.

“It’s one of those things where I’m choosing food or sleep or laundry—you just have to prioritize sometimes,” said Stephanie Lee, MD, who completed her preventive medicine residency training at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine. She’s now assistant professor of pediatrics at the Penn State Health St. Joseph Downtown Pediatrics Clinic.

“I didn’t get into cooking until recently,” Dr. Lee said. Earlier in her residency career, she said, “I ate out a lot. That was kind of hard money-wise.” 

“If I’m eating out, I would try to eat half of what I had and I would take the other half home, but then I didn’t have a dishwasher, so my dishes would just pile up for sometimes a week,” she said. “Luckily, my fiancée loves doing dishes.”