Becoming a medical professional requires a lot of steps and a lot of time. Signing up for pre-med is just the first step in a decade long process of starting out in the medical field.
You’ve gone through undergrad and made it through medical school, but now it’s time for an elongated period of practical experience: residency. Time for the rubber to hit the road, to put your money where your mouth is and put the stethoscope on the patient’s chest. Maybe not the best phrase, but you get the idea.
Residency can be an exciting and scary time and it always pays to start thinking ahead, preparing yourself both mentally and on the practicality side before your first day.
Get a Little “Me Time” In
Gap years are common in some parts of the world as it’s the time between finishing high school and moving onto undergrad or finishing undergrad and moving onto a postgraduate program. Either way, they’re greatly beneficial for your overall health and wellbeing.
Your Match Day is such an exciting day, tearing open the envelope to find out where you’re going. After the initial excitement dies down, the reality of the next few years will start to set in. You’re going to be busy…very busy.
You may not have enough time to finish that book series, to take that art class or binge watching Friends for the fifth time. Personal relationships may be harder as you won’t be as free as you were before.
So in between your match day and residency, take some time for you. Go on that trip abroad that you and your friends have been talking about forever. Spend some extra time with your pet. Rest a little longer. Plan a getaway with your significant other. Make the time about you before you’ll be devoting all your time to something and someone else.
Put Your Finances in Order
Alright, no more medical school! No more highlighting page after page, poring over your notes or all-night study sessions.
While ditching these ideas is certainly cause for celebration, you may do a double take at your medical school debt. Around 75% of medical students graduate with debt, and that debt continues to climb every year. In 2018, the Association of American Medical Colleges estimated the average student finishes medical school with about $190,000 in debt. That can be a staggering number to many.
With residency, you’ll be making some money and you can start paying off your debt little by little. But, it’s important to look at the big picture. Will you be moving? Do you have any other debt? How are you going to organize your money?
It’s a wise move to sit down and get all your ducks in a row. You’re not going to solve everything in one day, but it pays to plan.
Be Ready to Learn
The textbooks might be closed, but you shouldn’t throw them away. You’re going to be surrounded by lots of different faces at your next stop. There will be many in your same boat, fresh out of medical school while seasoned veteran doctors roam around.
It can be easy to be intimidated by others around you, who may seem like they have all the answers or are doctor prodigies. You’ll learn anything from how to properly talk to patients or stress-relieving techniques. Always remember, they’re there to learn to and they may be just as nervous as you are.
So, always have an open ear and be willing to take the criticism but also be open to compliments. It’s easy to focus on the negative about your daily activities but you shouldn’t overlook receiving a compliment from your peers.
Take Care of Yourself
If going to the gym and eating well was difficult during medical school, it’s going to be even harder during your residency. No one is expecting you to become an Instagram fitness model while running up and down the halls but staying in shape is just as important for your work life as it is for your private life.
Try and set a time during your week where you can make it to the gym or just go for a walk. There could be a gym with a body combat class you can make once or twice a week. Any activity is better than no activity at all.
As easy as it may be to make a quick stop by the vending machine every day, see if you can find some quick, healthy snacks to keep you going. A small cup of fruit, a bag of carrots or some mixed nuts may not taste as delicious as a Milky Way but they’ll keep you feeling better in the long run.
Additionally, it’d be smart to look into medical resident disability insurance. While it’s unlikely you may be hit by a disability during your youthful days in residency, but it’s always good to protect your income. You’ve put years of work into arriving where you are now, do the right thing and make you you’re covered.
And lastly, don’t be too hard on yourself! Cut yourself some slack. You’re going to make mistakes but you’re also going to do really great things, just try and remember the bigger picture on the hard days.