For graduating medical students preparing to begin their residency this summer, a chief resident offers tips for navigating one of the most challenging years of training.
In this first post of a two-part series, Dr. Faton Bytyci, chief resident at Sacred Heart Hospital’s family medicine residency program in Allentown, Pa., suggests adopting these principles as you begin work in the clinical setting:
- Get organized and get focused. Dr. Bytyci says planning out your calendar and organizing your residency-related activities will be a big help in keeping you on track. You can start now by finding a place to live and getting to know the shortest way to the hospital, he said. Once you’re on site, make sure you know where all the units of the hospital are located, and get your tools of the trade ready. “Get your white coats, scrubs, stethoscopes, pocket books,” he said. Digital and old-fashioned methods of organizing your schedule are important. “Download apps on your smartphone,” Dr. Bytyci said. “Get a calendar and mark your important dates, such as presentations and the ITE exam.”
- Ask for help from your support network. As you go through this first year of residency, you may need to work with your family members or other members of your support network to help you with your personal responsibilities, Dr. Bytyci said. If you’re married, you may need to have a conversation with your spouse about how the two of you will manage household responsibilities. “It could mean that your spouse will take on a greater share or that you will need to hire a house cleaner or nanny,” he said. “It could mean ordering groceries online instead of making the trip to the market.” The AMA Alliance offers networking and information to support medical families throughout training, practice and retirement.
- Participate in outside activities that help keep you healthy and balanced. “This is the most important part of your year,” Dr. Bytyci said. “Relaxing activities like games, exercising, hiking and yoga help combat chronic fatigue and burnout. Catch up with sleep, or take a weekend escape.” These kinds of activities are so important that several residency programs—including Stanford University School of Medicine and the Mayo Clinic—build them into special resident wellness programs.
- Make time for friends. “Studies show that people who socialize in general are happier,” Dr. Bytyci said. “This is especially true for residents after long hours and difficult cases. Meeting with old friends and new helps clear your mind from medicine for a while.” Learn why having a strong peer network is a key to preventing burnout in residency.
- Set realistic expectations. If you go into your PGY-1 year with the expectation that it will be a singularly challenging year, you won’t be disappointed. “Be prepared to miss birthday parties, family holidays, weddings—that is just the reality of being a resident,” he said. “If you can accept that and move forward, you’ll do well.”
- Get ready to show enthusiasm and take responsibility. “This is what will get you through,” Dr. Bytyci said, “and what people really expect of you. In the beginning you may not have great clinical judgment and knowledge. But you can compensate for your shortcomings by preparing to show interest and by working hard.”
- Don’t lose confidence. “Don’t forget that the program interviewed hundreds of candidates and picked you,” he said. “They like you, and they have faith in you.”
Learn more about navigating residency
- Find out how to make it through residency on a budget.
- Discover the four building blocks for a successful medical marriage.
- Learn about an initiative that could bring changes to the residency environment.
- Read about how more flexible hours can influence the residency experience.