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How to Thrive Your First Year of Residency

Written by: Alex Brown
Published on: Dec 1, 2022

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Your first year of residency, otherwise known as your intern year, is an intense and rewarding time. Your emotions can swing back and forth from excitement to relief to despair. And while residency is challenging, it’s possible for you to thrive during your first year. Here are some tips to help you navigate the intern year of your residency.

1. Get Excited
After years of studying late into the night, taking countless tests, and working hard, your efforts are finally paying off. Appreciate how far you’ve come and that you’re finally getting to work in a clinical setting.

2. Set Realistic Expectations with Loved Ones
There’s no getting around it: residency can be a busy, all-consuming period for you. You have to accept that your residency will take a significant amount of your time. So you have to set realistic expectations with loved ones about your availability in the coming year. You may have to miss certain holidays and events as your residency will need to be your priority.

3. Continue to Embrace Learning
Residency is a time of valuable learning. As you put your med school knowledge to practical use, embrace the idea of learning on the job. Every patient interaction and every daily round are chances to hone your craft by learning how to improve. Take advantage of your very limited down time to explore new ideas, therapies, or trends. Set time aside to browse UpToDate or Washington Manual for a few minutes. Doing so will help you become a more competent, confident clinician.

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4. Create Strong Working Relationships
Strong connections are vital to thriving in residency. You will need an emotional support system to help you navigate this busy and stressful period of your life. Although it might be tempting to let relationships fall by the wayside in favor of studying and working, you should commit to maintaining at least a couple of professional relationships, so you can lean on them and talk through issues or things you are learning. Whether they are other residents, support staff, or even senior clinicians, find some people who can be a support system during this challenging time.

5. Prioritize Self-Care
There’s a lot you can’t control during residency. You’ll likely face long hours, a heavy workload, and a steep learning curve. So it is crucial to your well-being that you focus on things you can control – such as eating properly and exercising.

As a sleep-deprived, overworked resident, taking time to focus on your physical health might seem like a huge challenge. But there are ways you can make it easy on yourself. For example, explore healthy meal delivery services or batch-cook healthy recipes on your day off. Exercise does not have to be a significant commitment either. You can still reap many of the benefits with short at-home workouts. Or you can take advantage of a hospital exercise room, if available.

Make the Most of Your First Year
Your first year as a resident offers you an incredible opportunity to grow and lay the foundation of a successful medical career. Settling into your new position takes time, but after a few short months, you’ll learn what habits are critical to maximizing your effectiveness and job satisfaction while also maintaining a healthy quality of life. Concentrate on learning the most you can and creating meaningful relationships, both professional and personal, that will aid you in the years to come.

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