Hi Merck Manual readers, my name is Amanda and I am a general surgery resident, currently ending out my intern year in the Detroit area. It’s been almost exactly a year since I’ve written a post on Merck Manuals and I was graciously given the opportunity to come back for a series of posts.
It honestly feels so great being back in this writing space. And, I can say without a doubt, that so much has changed since I’ve last written. Where do I even begin?
The beginning of intern year.
I don’t think anything truly prepares you for intern year. I don’t think the concept of moving 14 hours away from home (to an unknown place with unknown people) really hit me until I step foot into the hospital on June 26th for orientation. I was excited and nervous but I felt like I was somewhat prepared for intern year. I mean, that’s what medical school is for, right? Hint: I was very wrong.
I think the first month of intern year would be best described as a “slap in the face.” It’s amazing how great you feel coming out of graduation, going through orientation, being gifted crisp white coats embroidered with your credentials, and gaining a sense of importance for the first time ever. But, to be completely honest, I struggled a lot during that first month. A lot. The amount of information that I managed to lose between Match Day on February 4th and July 1st was so immense that I really thought that I wasn’t equipped for residency. From writing notes, doing consults, rounding, going into surgeries, to little nuances of each service, I was not prepared and Imposter Syndrome was on full blast. I was probably the least helpful person on my team that first month and I’m pretty sure I added more work to my immediate seniors.
The biggest adjustment for me was the number of hours I had to work. According to ACGME, the accrediting body, the number of hours over the course of four weeks must average out to 80 hours. That means, I still had weeks that I worked 100+ hours. In a way, it meant that I was learning–or at least that’s what I kept telling myself. Most days allowed me 2-3 hours a night to fit in everything from studying, cooking, working out, to attempting to have a dating life. However, most days I found myself fast asleep on the couch with my dinner half-eaten at 7:30 pm.
Another huge adjustment for me was learning how to handle my mistakes and knowing when to say, “I don’t know.” Except, when you say this as a medical student, you are allowed to read and present the topic the next day. As a resident, you can’t do that. You oversee patients and every decision you make affects a life. But, learning how to reach out to seniors when something is beyond your experience is a good skill to have.
I write about these moments not necessarily to “scare” future interns but to stress the importance of perspective. I am still a newbie physician but the amount that I am capable of today vs. July 1st is mind-boggling. I was laughing with a co-intern recently about how we used to think that discharging patients and boarding patients for procedures used to be time-consuming and difficult, but now it’s second nature for us. On days that I feel like I am not making any progress, I think about the July 1st’s version of me compared to now. I also like to remind myself that general surgery residency is five years for a reason and if I can make that much improvement in one year, I can’t imagine what I will be like the last day of my fifth year.
My program’s second year is known to be the most difficult and come July 1st, 2019, I will need plenty of perspective as I journey into my PGY2. I can’t wait to see how much I grow in the next year.
Want to see more of my journey? Follow me on Instagram at @coffeeandscrubs. And, stay tuned for my next several posts!