So I'm a resident. Residency is tough. It's called residency because in the Old Days, training physicians, much like old school apprentices, mostly lived in the hospital. "Resident Physicians." While arguments can be made that in that time residents learned more than we ever could, over time patients started demanding their physicians to be alert and awake. People started to worry about whether it was safe for doctors to work a bzillion hours a week and still be alert enough to perform surgery in the wee hours of the morning. There's a lot of debate about this these days, and there are valid points on each side, but ultimately we have moved to a system where residents can work no more than 80 hours a week, averaged over a 4 week time span. For some people, this will seem like it's not too bad, and for others like their own personal hell.
Regardless of how you feel about the hours, it's a stressful time. It's a time of learning to do surgery (for those of us like me that are in a surgical subspecialty) on living, breathing people. And do it under pressure. This can amplify what the hours feel like, and make for a particular breed of exhaustion.
But that being said, I like my job. When I pull a baby (emergently) out of an abdomen during a cesarean section, I feel like Superman. It's an incredible privilege to be given that responsibility. Likewise, when I help someone get through labor without medication, when they start to think they can't, I am allowed to be there for someone at a time of incredible vulnerability. It's a huge honor. I have been there for women when they find out they have cancer. I have been there when the cancer is completely resected and they are, for all intents and purposes, cured. I have been there when they find out they cannot be cured. All of it is part of my job and I'm grateful to have the opportunity.
And job aside, I get to come home and be a mom, and a wife. I have a family who, ever so gracefully, tolerates and makes possible the hours and stress that make this possible for me. A lot of people ask all the time, "how do you do this residency thing and be a mom?" I say - how could I not?! In medicine it's so easy to say, "I'll start doing xxx when med school is over. Or maybe when residency is over, or maybe when fellowship is over..." But I get to come home, every day, and get back to the "real life" that I decided not to wait for. It gives me something to look forward to every day, and reminds me why I ever decided to do this at all.
Residency is certainly hard. In my frustrated moments I want to blame absolutely everything that goes wrong on residency. But some days, I need to remember all those things that made this, and continue to make it, what I want to do. Am I (sometimes) overworked? Yes. Per hour, am I (somewhat) underpaid? Sure. But am I (100%) glad I did this. When I'm being honest, I am. And sometimes I just need to remember that.
Saturday, February 9, 2013