Medical Training Advice: How to Prepare for Residency

Congratulations to all who matched into residency! For those who don’t know, last Friday was Match Day where everyone who got accepted into a residency program found out where. During your fourth year of medical school, you apply to residency programs in your field of interest. After your interviews (hopefully you get some), you then submit a list of the programs in order of preference. The residency programs also rank all the students they would like to accept and by some magical (and complicated) formula, you are “matched” with a residency program based on the respective rankings.

Where you match is where you have to go, unless you decide to take the year off and try again the next year. It’s a bit of a lottery so it’s quite nerve wrecking. During match day there’s usually some sort of ceremony where all the envelopes with the match results are laid out with your name on it and it’s a royal rumble affair to get your envelope. Some schools have students individually come up to get their results (extra torture). Usually there’s a lot of rejoicing, but there’s also disappointment for those who don’t get their top choices. But regardless of where you match, it’s a huge achievement so my congratulations again.

People ask what they should study or if they should do really hard rotations near the end of medical school in order to prepare for residency. To that, I reply with a resounding NO. There definitely is preparation to do, but not in medical knowledge. That’s what the 1st three and a half years of medical school was for. Medical school is hard, no doubt about it. Residency, though, is on a whole other level. You need to establish and re-establish some life-lines.

What are life-lines? These are the things most important to you that renew you, encourage you, and support you. These are things that will give you the strength to get up again after being beat-down, sleep deprived, and emotionally trashed, and do it again and again. These are probably things you have neglected because of all the studying and rotations during 3rd year. First and foremost are your relationships.

The most important is your relationship with God, and it really is time to reconnect with Him and build into your routine the basic spiritual disciplines. If you didn’t have time during medical school to read your Bible and pray, then anticipate not having much of a relationship with God in residency. You have to be very intentional about carving time out for God, and if you are in the habit of doing that when you do have time, you’ll build up the discipline to do that when life gets busy.

Now is a good time to start scoping out churches where you will be training. Hopefully you took into consideration the church community in your ranking process. If you don’t have a church home, it might be a good idea to find a church with different services so that you can go if you are on call on Sundays or post-call. Fellowship with God and other believers is going to be key in reviving your soul and reminding you of why God called you into medicine.

Next is your relationship with your significant other, especially your spouse. They will be your number one fan, but they also will be affected by the difficulties of residency. The long hours and the emotional drain will cause big strains so it’d be wise to strengthen your marriage prior and continue to tend to your relationships during the process. This is a huge topic just by itself, you can read this article for more on the subject. Of course your relationship with your family and friends are important so make an effort to build up your encouragement base before the craziness starts. You’ll need all the support you can get.

Lastly, I’ll just mention you need to connect again with the activities that give you joy, whether it’s a sport, hobby, or special routines. Medicine isn’t just about caring for others, you have to care for yourself first. Again, residency will be hard. There will be times when you can’t do all that you want to do (or know you should do). Hopefully by building up the support and habits now, you can not just survive residency, but thrive.

What are your life-lines?

 

 

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