Saturday, June 27, 2015

Advice for Intern Year: Surviving Residency Is Possible (so far)

Yesterday was the party for the new emergency medicine residents. OH YES PLEASE. The light at the end of this tunnel is a little bit brighter.

It was a fun party and I really like a couple of the new interns, which is a shame, since I probably will not see them as often as I would like... but this year, I am inviting more people over for dinner. The Year of Survival is over.

During residency, anything is possible. It just depends on how much you're willing to sacrifice. One of the graduating seniors just moved back to Arkansas, where his wife lives and works. Yes, they survived three years of living apart. I don't think I could do that. But maybe I could, if I had to.

Then again, I am not quite sure how I survived both of a new job + pregnancy, therapy, doctor visits, editing/writing (okay, this definitely took a hit), living in a new area and a husband who works ridiculous hours. In retrospect, two under two is a breeze in comparison. I'm doubly thrilled not to be moving for a third summer...!! I can keep getting settled, and I like this feeling.

01. Establish your support system

Our families may live far away, but technology allows us to have a direct line. The girls love seeing and hearing the sounds of their grandparents, aunts and uncles, and it gives us a reason to come together, even for a short period of time.

I am an introvert, and so I often get drained after teaching even - but for the sake of the girls (and adult conversation! sort of.), we talk to family often. It's very nice knowing my people are supporting us! Then, of course, there is the occasional phone call, a multitude of texts and e-mailing with friends. Whatever you do, do not hide under a blanket during residency. When your favorite person is gone all the time, you need some sort of outlet!

02. Understand that your person is going to be gone a lot - and they often cannot control that.

Yes, residents now have an 80 hour work week limit. Okay. Unfortunately, there is more work to be done - there is charting, logging, studying for in-service exams, research projects, and waiting for lab results to come back.

A sub-question: do you find yourself feeling resentful? Are you frustrated? This is all normal. This period of time is not easy. Do NOT compare your situation with other people's, because a) you're not going to feel better, b) you're not properly dealing with these feelings, and c) everyone has their own burdens.

The biggest hurdle I am still overcoming is accepting that I (generally) do everything. I pay the bills (with Will's paycheck! HA!), handle therapy and all errands, clean the house, laundry (sometimes), and generally keep the house functioning. This is a full-time job. I might not be saving lives, but I am certainly keeping four people alive, functioning and happy. Pat on the back, people! Give yourself one too!

03. Have many conversations about what that means for you two as a couple, and how you want to re-connect and have quality time together.

Some rotations, I can't expect conversations from Will. This is tough for me because talking is a love language. We do a lot of in-home dates; I might pick up a treat from the store because it's still cheaper than going out (e.g. $6 for a six pack of Yuengling, check).

We'll watch a movie or show, talk about our days and any interesting articles we've read, do extra therapy or playtime with GHB, exercise/ take the girls on a walk, or play a game. We're currently playing a game called Hearthstone, which is like a simpler version of Dungeons & Dragons (so Will says - I am not very game literate), AND it's online, so we can play against each other!

As long as we're together, though, I am pretty happy. I definitely do not take him or his time off for granted.

04. Perspective: this is hard on your resident too.

Will and Grace are two peas in a pod. It's adorable watching them interact and play. I send Will pictures and texts throughout the day to keep him updated on what's going on. There are days Will does not see Grace, and there is a definite difference in her behavior. She misses her dad! So we look at pictures and videos of him, and that is really special. Additionally, if I'm having a busy day and forget to text Will, I'll usually get a reminder text from him!

What if I don't have any kids?! No problem - your resident still wants to hear about what you're doing! He might be super busy and not notice the clock the same way you're staring at it, but who doesn't like texts from their favorite person?

05. Get involved!

At least during EM rotations, the girls and I like to take dinner to Will. Other days, we'll stop by the ER offices to say hello. This year, I've decided to take more initiative to meet people in the program, have them over and have playdates. Isolation in this program can feel its worst on cold, winter days.

I've also decided to start a food and supplies drive within the EM department to benefit the local food kitchen. We're only a few blocks away, and we live close to the hospital, so people can drop off donations on our porch! I am really excited to spearhead this. People in need every month of the year, not just during the holiday season, and we have a duty to serve our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ any way we can.

Here's a great list of items, if you want to help too!

Waiting to see Dad!

06. Accept your limits!

Limits are human, unlimited resources is impossible for anyone, and burn-out is very, very real.  Treat yo' self! Get sleep, eat well, exercise, pray and be kind to yourself and others. This period can feel worse than it is without a lot of love going around.

07. When in doubt, carry on. 

For as tough this final leg of learning is for the residents, remember why you're even in this situation: you love that doctor-person! Do everything out of love, even cleaning the floors.

Also, make a schedule. Just me? I need to know when I'm going to squeeze in:

  • therapy
  • doctor appointments
  • class
  • meal planning
  • errands (i.e. grocery shopping)
  • rest time
  • sleeping
  • exercise
  • prayer/ read the daily readings/ prayer of spiritual communion
  • cleaning schedule
  • play dates
  • reading/ class prep
  • writing/ editing

Et cetera. Because the fun don't stop! However, we're also up for taking a break and ignoring the schedule. Those are usually the best times. 

Today (and the next three days), Will is gone all day. After I finish this post, I am going to fix lunch, finish a book review, make the bed, and fold laundry. Once Grace wakes up, I'll give her a little more lunch, and then we all might go to Chik-fil-A to play on the play-set (rainy today!) and enjoy a peach shake. Or, we might do that next week! It's summer. We're free.

Thanks for hanging out, readers! And mucho thanks for all of your support this year. Could not have done it without my little blog platoon!

How do you survive stressful times?


  1. I see where Grace gets her totally flexible sitting positions from ;)

    You and Will have done so great making it through this year - you've done more than just survive, you've thrived! You have two happy children, and happy friends that love you and are happy to come over for some Grace and Laura time ;)

  2. what a packed year it has been for your family - what is next on the schedule for Will? more residency? always enjoy the posts you send out as allows all of us to see how the girls are growing and from the photos you can tell Grace is a daddy's girl. have a great summer and your peach milk shakes and will continue to keep you and your family in my daily prayers as I do others