third year

July 1, 2009

and so it begins
the new interns may have started a few days ago, but officially my third (and last!) year of residency begins today. it’s rather anticlimactic, however, since i’m just moving from one ward team to another. aside from a schedule with fewer call months (yay!), 2nd and 3rd year of the pediatrics residency where i train are not all that different.

still, it’s a milestone. 24 months down and — assuming things continue to go decently well — only 12 to go! it really is an incredibly short block of time in some ways, but at the same time i feel like i’ve already been doing it forever. one thing i believe in firmly is that residency is not a reason to put the rest of life ‘on hold’. life is too short to just give up a few YEARS to the ACGME* gods.

so, in honor of july 1st, here are a few tips i have collected over the years that have helped me survive (? thrive ?) over the past 2 years. if you are starting out on your residency adventure this week, i hope they come in handy!

1. come prepared! that is, have a good organizational system for bringing whatever it is you need to work, including a bag for overnight call. i tend to have a ‘day bag’ and also a ‘call night bag’, and i also bring lunch and snacks every day. a hungry (hangry?) resident is not a good resident, and it doesn’t have to take a lot of time to pack things up to go. and i have found that eating healthy foods (rather than whatever i can scrounge up in the hospital) really helps to keep my energy up on long days (and nights).a visual aid! here is my new laptop lunchbox packed up with last night’s dinner to go. how cute is that tiny orange container???

2. do not feel bad about signing out.. yes, i know there was a time when residents used to live in the hospital. and i’ve heard the war stories about having to stay up for 999 hours in a row or whatever. but those days are over, and in my opinion they probably never should have happened in the first place! how would you feel if you read that laborers from another country were forced to work 100 hours a week? with appropriate sign-out, it is just a fact that you need to go home at the end of the day (unless, of course, you’re on call). doctors are not superhuman and it is dangerous pretending that we are.

3. keep your hobbies and your friends! there is time for some fun during residency! i hope that i have conveyed this on this site — if nothing else, the fact that i’ve been able to write daily shows that there is time for some things outside of work. if you like to run, keep running! there has to be thought put into how things outside of work will fit into your days, but it is doable. or at least it should be if you are working according to the duty hour rules. and do not feel bad about it! it will help to keep you balanced and, in my opinion, help you to be a better doctor overall.

4. read. but don’t kill yourself, especially intern year. i need to be better about reading, but the most success i’ve had is with being realistic about it — 20 – 30 minutes a day really can add up to something meaningful. telling yourself you will get through a 1000 page text in a month is self-defeating and isn’t going to work. besides, at some point, being well-rested and having some enjoyment outside of work is going to be more important. in my experience, anyway.

5. when at work, remember that it’s about the patient, not you! it’s easy to get caught up in the many annoyances that pile up over the course of a call day. it’s also easy to spend time (at the beginning) worrying about messing things up or embarrassing oneself by asking a stupid question. but you know what? if you have the patient’s best interest on your mind at all times, it won’t matter. i never hesitate to call a rapid response if i feel like it is warranted, and i have never regretted it. i know that if it were my kid, i wouldn’t want some resident waffling about it because she is afraid of what others might think.

* ACGME = governing body of US medical residencies

good luck to any new interns out there reading this. really, it’s not all that bad. except for the lack of sleep at times, i actually would say i’m pretty satisfied with resident life! it may be tough, but it is satisfying work and at least it is never boring.



workout: 4 miles easy in the AM — average 8:31/mi. shred level 2 in the afternoon — OUCH.

doin’ time was the rather involved cashew chicken + hot & sour soup.
the time spent was worth it, though — josh and i both loved this and i have leftovers for lunch (shown above) and dinner another night!

reading: 20 minutes on counseling parents of extremely preterm babies pre-delivery. an interesting, thought provoking article in this month’s pediatrics journal.


  • Reply Kath March 10, 2019 at 7:29 pm

    Love your informative med student posts 🙂 congrats on year 3!!

  • Reply da March 10, 2019 at 7:29 pm

    Congratulations on making it to your third year of residency, Sarah, and keeping your life so well balanced while doing so!
    L, da

  • Reply HangryPants March 10, 2019 at 7:29 pm

    Congratulations! Your tips for survival sound like wonderful healthy balance tips for any crazy career. And amen for not having to work 100 hours in a row anymore. That really doesn&#39t make any sense at all. Who wants a sleep deprived doctor? It&#39s like a crazy right of passage I bet. Like how law students have to get blasted with the socratic method just because those before them did.

  • Reply Aimee March 10, 2019 at 7:29 pm

    yay sarah!

  • Reply Jess March 10, 2019 at 7:29 pm

    Hooray last year! I love the new lunchbox.

  • Reply Susan March 10, 2019 at 7:29 pm

    I agree with #5! I probably look like an idiot half the time, but I ask lots of questions. I also think experienced people should be more understanding to new people…experience teaches you a lot, but some of us just aren&#39t quite there yet!

    Yay for year three…almost there!

  • Reply Jennifer March 10, 2019 at 7:29 pm

    I&#39m a new Peds intern… although my first day was last week. So far, it&#39s fun and overwhelming and exhausting! I&#39m just counting down the days until the third year med students come along to deflect some of the attention next week! 🙂 Thanks, too, Sarah, for being so faithful to your blogging! I love reading your new posts everyday.

  • Reply Claire March 10, 2019 at 7:29 pm

    So…I totally agree with you about the nurses. After my first call (yes, I was the lucky intern who was on call our first day on the job!) I KNOW how important they are. Our H/O floor was VERY needy last night and the nurses were great at saying "this is a &#39dramatic&#39 patient" or "if he says he&#39s hurting, he really is." Now, off to bed…three hour nap and I&#39m still tired!

  • Reply Claire March 10, 2019 at 7:29 pm

    Oh…and one I would add (unless you said it and I missed it in my post-call tiredness)…don&#39t be afraid to ask your upper level for help!

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