match day and beyond

March 18, 2011

match day!
i can’t believe i totally spaced on match day morning yesterday — congratulations to all of the rising interns of ’11! you are in for the journey of a lifetime, and i believe it’s a pretty transformative one: you will come out at least a little bit different from when you started.

i have written a post previously on tips for the july intern, so feel free to check that out, but really, the best thing for you all to do would be to have a SPECTACULAR time in the next few months! do fun things, go exciting places, and do not waste time stressing about what is to come because everyone goes through it and you will be great.

** if you are a 4th year reading this & you’re comfortable, tell me where you matched!! i can live vicariously through the adventure seeing that i’ve been at the same institution since 2002.

the little habits: MD-style
[edited to add: just realized this might sound exclusionary, and i definitely didn’t mean it that way! these habits would certainly easily transfer over to RNs (working or in training), other health care professionals, or phD students — i just mention MD because that was my experience.]

so last week i mentioned the recent recent zen habits post on little habits. it struck a chord in me, because i agree with leo that seemingly tiny things can contribute tremendously to overall well-being. i also think that they all have direct applicability to the lifestyle of a resident, med student, intern, or fellow! here are his guidelines [and my take on application while living the glamorous life of an MD-in-training]:

1. Get-in-the-door ritual. leo’s habit is to put everything he is carrying away as he walks through the door. if you’re like me, your work bag is PACKED with essentials, from prescriptions to orchidometer [okay, that’s just for us peds endo weirdos!], to that day’s lunch.

taking the few minutes at the end of the day to put things back in their proper places has a ‘wind-down’ effect, and is so helpful to keep things organized for the next morning. furthermore, i feel immensely better when my environment looks simple and uncluttered, and it helps when my stuff isn’t strewn all over the place. and REALLY, it takes hardly any time at all.

2. Put clothes away. similar to the first habit, it’s about a very minor (and non-time consuming) act that has the power to make your environment so much more pleasant to be in. i would also extend this to having a stress-free work wardrobe, which should consist of the following:

a) comfortable shoes — and they don’t have to be danskos, and they don’t have to be ugly! i found these to be shockingly comfortable and clomp around the wards in them all the time.
b) enough outfits so that you are not stressed if you don’t get laundry done on a given week

c) clothes that are non-wrinkle and easy to care for. after all, the reality is that someone’s bodily fluids are going to get on at least something you own, so it might as well all be stuff you can throw in the wash.

d) clothes that make you feel good about yourself/happy when you wear them. putting on a dress was one of my favorite ways to make it through a call day (back in the days when i took actual overnight call and umm, when my dresses fit).

3. Wash my bowl. ie: don’t let dishes pile up! my ability to keep up with this waxes and wanes, but really it’s so much nicer when the sink is empty, and it’s such a simple habit that can make a big difference. it makes cooking more fun and less stressful, too.

4. Prepare meals in advance. ehh — i like the act of cooking and variety in my meals a bit too much to want to make everything in bulk the way leo mentions! however, i do like it when i take the time to pack my lunch the night before.

mmm, can’t wait for peach season to roll around again . . .

5. Just step out the door. ie, in reference to exercise. running helped me maintain (some) sanity during the toughest points of residency, and i think that getting physical activity is absolutely essential to maintaining a decent quality of life. i do agree that getting started is ALWAYS the hardest part, and i pretty much never regretted following through on my workout plans, even during the busiest weeks of residency! if you do hate your workouts while you are doing them, to me that’s a signal that you need to look for another activity. not everyone loves running and yoga [though it may seem that way sometimes!] and there are so many other ways to stay healthy and fit.

6. Clear distractions. when you are an intern with 50 check-boxes on your list, take a deep breath and just get started on the first one. when other pages come through (and they will), unless a patient is in actual distress (generally a small fraction of the pages), just add to your list and go back to what you were working on. it can be overwhelming, but i really do think that focusing on just one item at a time really helps.

with respect to bigger projects (this applies to med students as well as residency + beyond — what, you thought the homework would stop just because you finished ‘school’? HA!), just like stepping out the door to run is the hardest part, sometimes clearing off your desk and getting out the appropriate research materials is the biggest boundary. once you get started, these kinds of tasks are less dreadful than they seem. don’t let them suck up all of your time — there just isn’t enough of it!

7. Take a walk & reflect. okay, i admit this is pretty much impossible to work into the middle of your workday. but hey — you can use that journey from Ward A to Ward Z to calm yourself and recollect your thoughts! if you are lucky enough to be in a field that allows for a 15 minute jaunt outside [sometimes i CAN sneak out and do this during my clinic days, especially if someone no-shows], do it. it is really refreshing and nice.

8. Breathe. says leo: “When I get stressed, I simply breathe.” well, when i get stressed, i usually get frustrated and clench my muscles and get less nice (and maybe even a little punchy). like i said yesterday — work in progress! but someday perhaps i’ll be able to really follow leo’s advice.

good luck! does anyone [in the medical field or otherwise] have anything you would add to the list? let me know!

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