While you may have to be the best and brightest in medical school to nab an otolaryngology residency, intelligence alone won’t get a physician through the grueling, sleep-deprived years of residency. Being competitive may propel a medical school student forward, but competing with fellow residents will probably have the opposite effect.
Explore This IssueSeptember 2017
Here’s how otolaryngologists survive—and yes, thrive—during what some have described as the most exhausting, fun, and intense years of their career and, perhaps, of their lives.
Be a team player. Medical school students spend a lot of time alone, studying and absorbing knowledge. As a resident, however, applying that knowledge means transitioning to working well with colleagues. “Healthcare now is very much about teamwork with other doctors, [as well as] nursing and ancillary staff,” said Jeffrey M. Bumpous, MD, J. Samuel Bumgardner Endowed Professor in and chief of the division of otolaryngology at the University of Louisville School of Medicine in Kentucky. Dr. Bumpous advises first-year residents to channel those competitive urges into competing with themselves to know as much as possible.
Be social. Being a team player also means being social and saying yes to things like holiday gatherings with other residents and hospital staff, playing on a resident kickball, basketball, or soccer team, or even just taking a walk outside the hospital with another resident to get a change of scenery. “Going through residency can be like working in the trenches sometimes,” said Mas Takashima, MD, director of the Sinus Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and a co-author of a study on resident efficiency (Laryngoscope. 2015;125:594–598; see “Do EHRs Really Save Residents’ Time?” left). “Some of my closest friends are people I worked with as an intern. It’s another layer of support. You’re there to help each other along this amazing journey, and the rewards are phenomenal.”
Be humble. Arrogance is not a friend to the first-year resident. “The best residents come in a little humble,” said Mark Wax, MD, professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) in Portland, Oregon. “You’ve got to work with everybody.”
Joseph McClellan, MD, a third-year resident at OHSU, has noticed that residents who come in thinking they know everything and have it all figured out are the ones who struggle the most. “These people can get a reputation that follows them through their residency. It can get in the way in terms of having useful discussions about patient care, because others may find you unapproachable,” he added. While some may talk about how difficult it is to get along with peers in this first-year environment, Dr. McClellan said there’s no magic to it. “It’s just kind of the basic stuff you learned when you were 6 years old,” he said. “Be nice to everyone and find the people you want to be like and try to emulate their behavior.”