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The daily life of a medical resident..
a.k.a "It's 2 AM and I'm looking at urine outputs."
(well, besides sunscreen) 
Wed, Jul. 6th 2011
If I could give one piece of advice to new interns, rising second years and anyone else who gets a promotion every july.... stress management would be it.

Note that I didn't say stress relief. Outside of those precious weeks of vacation where you run off to see family, tropical beaches or just a 168 hour nap, people in our field rarely find relief from the stress that permeates our daily lives.

I joke that I'm naming my new ulcer "Chief", given all the little details that have made my job just that much more interesting lately, but the truth is that I'm just learning to manage the stress load a little better.

Because despite what popular media shows resident life to be like, excessive drinking and sleeping with the nursing staff are not good options.

And so, a primer. What I've learned so far from my own experience and watching those around me either crash and burn or thrive under the unique combination of sleep deprivation, self doubt and a diet of starchy carbohydrates that is residency.

Things that help, but don't mitigate the need for a stress management:

Cohabitation with a warm body:
-Significant others
-Pets
-Roomates

The luxury of coming home to a place that is Not Empty can not be understated. Even if your cohabitant has a tendency to groom their nether region with their tongue, it's nice to have companionship at the end of a long day.

People who are contractually/morally/spiritually obligated to listen to you whine
-Family**
-Significant others**
-Therapists
-People of whatever manner religious cloth you prefer

Once you move past the comforts above, it is useful to have someone to talk to outside of work. Residents are skilled in the art of bitching to each other; we share the same language, we know that Dr. R gets grumpy if they don't get a second cup of coffee. But to have a sounding board completely removed from the job is important - these people know who you are outside the hospital, and provide a new perspective on the Issues At Hand.

**Caveat: Don't abuse these people; despite their love for you, they WILL get sick of hearing about your job, especially if it's all suck, all the time. Share the victories, vent about the losses and then go do Something Else.

But, you ask - what can I do by myself to manage my stress? Well, you're going to have to figure it out for yourself. My go-to activities tend toward the simple and domestic - cooking, gardening, figuring out if I can actually spin the mountains of hair my dogs shed into useable yarn with my spinning wheel.

Others go to the gym or voluntarily go out running in Savannah heat. Those are the lucky ones who actually feed off the endorphin rush and can avoid the intern 15 so closely associated with aforementioned carb heavy diet.

Point is, there has to be something. Something constructive, just for you and not related to patient care in the slightest. Failing that, you need a guilty pleasure - something that is guaranteed to soothe and comfort after a day where the guano has completed coated the fan.

It may not work for everyone, but Riesling, Thai takeout spicy enough to make your face numb and Breakfast at Tiffany's has yet to fail me.
Wayne State University Class 2009
Comments 
Wed, Jul. 6th 2011 (UTC)
As the wife of a family medicine resident (just barely survived intern year), thank you for this post.
Wed, Jul. 6th 2011 (UTC)
Thanks for writing this; it came at an opportune time. (I'm not a resident, but many things apply.)

I'll link to it the next time I make a links post, if you don't mind.
Wed, Jul. 6th 2011 (UTC)
"Even if your cohabitant has a tendency to groom their nether region with their tongue, it's nice to have companionship at the end of a long day. "

Oh the imagery!
Wed, Jul. 6th 2011 (UTC)
The Riesling and Thai takeout part works for me. It's highly underrated.
Fri, Jul. 15th 2011 (UTC)
Yep.
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