Advice For a New Medical Resident From Those Who Came Before

A young woman wearing a white lab coat and a stethoscope around her neck is sitting at a desk and smiling.

The transition into a medical resident can be a daunting one. It’s hard to know what to expect unless you do your research before. Your next four years will be full of failing, learning, and growing, but why not learn some extra tips beforehand to set yourself up as best you can? Don’t worry, we’ve got that covered. 

We conducted in-depth research to find the best advice from real, current residents to help you as you begin residency for the first time. We broke the advice down into three categories: mental balance, education and finances.

A Medical Resident Needs to Find Balance

takevasiveaction“The best strategy that I wish I learned sooner to balance everything was keeping routines. Waking up at the same time, go to the gym around the same time (after work on a non-call day), and keep at least an hour to myself for my sanity. It may take months to get a routine down, and those routines will change by the demands of the job.” 

CPhatDeluxe“Don’t study on your off-time. You get plenty of learning on the job and during didactics.” 

Woodardo “Intern year is a rollercoaster no matter where you are or what specialty you’re in, and you’ll feel like you’re underwater for days or weeks or months at a time. Never forget you’re not alone and every other doctor felt the same way as they went through a similar experience. After tough patches, you’ll find ways to slow down, don’t forget to take time to yourself. If you find yourself in a particularly taxing situation, talk to your classmates or your program director for advice or help, there is absolutely no shame in that, that’s what your classmates are for. I also hope you enjoy caffeine. 

For me, intern year meant shifting my priorities, but keeping the things I love. My time in the gym shortened, my time reading and hiking shortened, but nothing disappeared. Keep in touch with your friends and family. I keep a journal to reflect on all of my perceived successes, failures and important questions.” 

Marc Katz, MDIt gets better. The first few months of residency are the worst. Everything is brand new and it’s terrifying. But it gets better. The next few months of residency come around and you realize that it’s actually still pretty terrible. Okay, most of the intern year is literally the worst. But it gets better.” 

Residents Are Learning and Not Expected to Know Everything

msteven117: “No one expects you to know everything we are all still learning, even the attendings. Just use every interaction with pts/nurses/attendings/specialists as a learning opportunity. Try not to make the same dumb mistake twice, and when you’ve had a lousy day reach to your co-interns and laugh about it. Chances are they have had the exact same experiences!” 

PGY 1, New Jersey Medical School“Don’t lie! People are gonna ask, “Have you ever done XYZ” and it is perfectly okay to say nobut follow that up with “I want to learn so can I do it.” Don’t ever lie just to get a procedure. These are humans, not mannequins.” 

KevinMDAsk questions. Remember, this is about your education too. How else are you going to expand your knowledge base? Yes, dumb questions do exist. But there is no such thing as a useless question. And trust me, that “dumb” question you just asked? All 20 of your co-interns were wondering the exact same thing. Some of the residents, too.” 

Manage Your Personal Finances Before They Manage You

You’ve worked hard through medical school to learn about everything from musculature to phlebotomy. But you never spent time learning about personal cash flow models, the cost of capital, or how to build/manage your credit score to achieve the financial milestones you’ll eventually want (such as buying a house, car, etc).

You can find some basic personal finance courses online (For example: Intro to Personal Finance for Resident & Medical Students from Breaking Bad Debt). The Doc2Doc Team also partnered with KevinMD to discuss the mechanics of personal loans for physicians.

You’re embarking on an incredibly exciting and important journey in your personal career and now is the time to set good habits and focus on the work. You’ll make good friends, make some mistakes and hopefully make good decisions that will help you build your overall career.

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