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So, You’ve Matched Into Residency. Now What?

After a difficult year of COVID and an all-virtual application cycle, congratulations on matching into residency! This is the culmination of years of hard work on your part, and you should be proud to enter this next phase of being a doctor.  But now that you’re on the other side of the Match, it can be daunting to think about actually being an intern. As someone who is coming to the end of residency, here are my top 5 tips for surviving and thriving in your intern year.

Show up on time and ready to work

Make a great first impression on your attendings by always showing up on time (or even early!) and prepared for the day. Come to rounds having reviewed all your patients’ charts with a plan to advance their care. Your plan does not need to be the right one, but it shows that you have prepared and thought about each case.

Be an enthusiastic learner

No one expects you to know everything (or honestly anything in the first few months). Most residents and attendings want to help you learn, so be enthusiastic and engaged when they teach you new things. Volunteer to learn a new procedure with a fellow (even if you’re exhausted). Read about diagnoses you see during the day (for at least 5 minutes) and try to teach your medical student on rounds the next day. Ask thoughtful questions. Attend lectures and noon conferences when your clinical responsibilities allow. The more eager you are to learn, the more people are going to want to teach you.

Never be afraid to ask for help

This is an important one. If you do not know what to do or you feel like you are in over your head, ask for help! There is a reason we work on medical teams. If you do not know how to do a procedure, be honest with your resident or attending, and ask them to teach you how to do it for the next time. If you are concerned about a patient, ask someone else to evaluate the patient and explain what they are looking for. The easiest way to get into trouble is by attempting to do things that you are not trained for, so always ask for help.

Be kind to your patients and your coworkers

The days in residency can be very long (more than 27 hours long in some cases). When you are tired, hungry, or overwhelmed, it can be easy to snap at those around you. Remember that your patients (no matter how difficult) are sick and scared. Even if they are acting badly, they deserve your kindness. The same goes for your fellow residents, nurses, respiratory therapists, physical therapists, etc. Assume that everyone is trying to help the patient and listen to their concerns. A nurse with 20 years of experience may notice something that you haven’t. Everyone’s voice on the team should be valued, and you will be a much more successful intern if others trust you and enjoy working with you.

Protect your wellness and practice self-compassion

This is the hardest one to do for many of us. After 80-hour work weeks, it can be hard to be as kind to yourself as you are to others. Pick one thing that brings you joy and decide to keep doing it during residency. For me, that was reading a novel for 15 minutes every day of residency (before bed, while eating my lunch in the hospital, sitting waiting for rounds to start, wherever I could find the time). For others, that may be exercise, weekly zoom dates with a friend, meditation, playing an instrument, etc. Making the time to pursue your happiness will make residency more enjoyable, and it will make you a better intern. And the final piece of self-compassion is to forgive yourself when you make mistakes. We are all human, and mistakes will happen. Just decide to learn from them and become a better doctor moving forward.

Good luck!

Further reading:

Surviving Intern Year: Quotes from Chief Residents

How I Scored a 258 on USMLE Step 3 While Figuring Out How to Be an Intern

What Med Students Should Do Post-Match

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