Making time to care for yourself, asking questions, and letting go of perfection can help you successfully navigate a new chapter in your life.
I prepared for the first day of residency like it was the first day of school. I chose my outfit, set aside my morning prayer book, and packed a handful of snacks to get me through the first day. Three missed alarms later, I woke up and realized that I had thrown off my morning schedule. There wasn’t time to mindfully move through the morning. Instead, I raced through my apartment, grabbed my ID badge and stethoscope and dashed to my car. This was how the first day of the rest of my career started.
There are a ton of expectations built around the transition from fourth year to the start of intern year. “Fourth Year, Best Year!” is a refrain I held onto even as the coronavirus pandemic cancelled the most important celebrations of the semester. I’d heard my attendings reminisce about how pivotal intern year was in their development as a doctor, so I wanted my first day to be perfect. I asked every physician I met for advice on making the most out of intern year. I’m grateful I listened to the tip of having more than one morning alarm set.
A month into intern year, I haven’t had any perfect days, but I have had rewarding moments. Here’s a few things I learned that are helpful when starting any new phase of your career:
Care for yourself.
Budget for commute time. Pack extra snacks. Buy the extra set of pens. Always set four alarms in the morning.
Recognize that no one expects you to know everything.
There’s always time to breathe.
Stairwells are one of the most meditative spaces in the hospital. Each time I take the stairs or walk down the hall to a patient’s room, I remind myself that there’s time to breathe. These brief commutes are opportunities to check in with yourself.
Aim to be prepared, not perfect.
This perspective gives room to make mistakes and grow. It also helps in the face of the unknown where there are no perfect decisions.
Everyone had a first day.
The people I admire in medicine at one point went through their intern year. Becoming a better physician takes time and happens day by day.