Be organized. One of the most important traits for first-year residents is organizational ability. “If you’re good at time management and [are] well organized, it enables you to be more productive and get out earlier to spend time with your family,” said Dr. Takashima. “Those who are organized clearly shine, partly because they’re on top of things and well prepared for cases.” What’s the clearest path to organization? At Baylor, first-year residents are assigned to mentors, and teachings focus on efficiencies. These may include logistics such as getting scans to the operating room in advance of surgery.
Explore This IssueSeptember 2017
Ask for help. Whether it’s not fully grasping a particular procedure or protocol or struggling with a personal problem, it’s best to get help sooner rather than later. First years can and should talk to a trusted chief resident, program director, or faculty member if difficulties arise. “Don’t feel you have to overcome everything by yourself,” said Dr. Bumpous. “Get advice. Take constructive criticism. When you ask, ‘How do I do this better?’ be a good listener and accept people’s advice. The people who isolate themselves and don’t engage others in trying to stay on the best path are the most vulnerable to getting into a chronic problem or more serious trouble.”
Put the patient first (and do it with compassion). Physicians burn out when they lose touch with their own humanity. “Remember that you’re part of the human condition,” Dr. Bumpous said. “The person on the other end of your otoscope or scalpel is a human being—a mom, a dad, a sister, or a brother. Don’t let yourself become too removed from that.” Dr. Bumpous suggested residents learn at least one little thing about each patient as an important way to let patients know they are cared for. What do they do? Where are they from? What do they like to do? “That goes a long way toward helping people heal,” he added.
Relax before residency begins. If possible, future residents should spend any time off after med school enjoying life, whether that means relaxing with family or traveling. “It’s my personal belief that when [residents] start there is ample opportunity for them to learn what they need to learn and acquire the skill set they will need,” said Dr. Wax. “Trying to start reading or shadowing before residency is not going to really help them in the long run. Doing more things to prepare may put them ahead a month or two, but by the middle or end of the first year, everyone is at the same place, no matter what they did.”