Pros and Cons of Residency

Residency is one of those things people don’t always understand.

Much like my messed up undergrad program split between a community college and university and the fact that I was a part of the International Baccalaureate program, so I did some university level courses in high school, it is something that can be bizarre to explain and a bit out of the ordinary.

I don’t expect everyone to grasp the every facet of my postgraduate training, but sometimes, it would be nice to not have to justify why I can’t go to party x or plan things months in advance because aside from taking a vacation day, I am almost never guaranteed a day off.

But one of the most puzzling things is that although I am done med school and although I do get paid to work in a hospital and have a kind of sort of medical license, I am still a student.

So many places ask me if I am here for school or work.  Both is not usually an accepted answer.  But that is the truth.

The bonus to being both is that I now have a decent income to not live in someone’s basement, but I still have a handy dandy student ID (with my name wrong on it…. I really need to go prove to the university that I am indeed married and have been for years) that enables me to get discounts, like 10% off my groceries on Tuesday evenings or 10% off everything at my new favourite café.

Another bonus to being both a student and an employee is that I can argue that I do indeed have a real job when people complain about “lifer students.”  In fact, much of the time, to outside people who don’t know me, I have just started saying it is my job.  It is just easier.

One of the best parts about residency is that I get to keep learning.  Not that I would stop once I have simply a real job.  But, this learning is indeed promoted.

Unfortunately, with promoted learning comes the need to study and do assignments and the favourite thing in medicine these days, presentations.

Yes, I have homework.  That blows people’s minds.  I work on average, 50-70 hours per week and do homework.

I love presentations (seriously, I am not right in the head).  And reading.  But, sometimes amidst the schedule of the excessive hours or erratic hours, these other things get a bit ridiculous.  I have online coursework to complete, evaluations to finish, reading for my actual rotation to do, stuff related to our physics teaching to learn and presentations to prepare.  It gets a bit excessive.

Would I have it another way?  Probably not.

I am lucky to have so many learning opportunities and this year, my home program only requires me to do one really big presentation and it happens to be during one of my less time consuming rotations (though I would argue, the constant schedule changes consumes more time thanks to sleep pattern flaws and headaches).

But, as I sit here writing reflective notes on talks about handover practices, professionalism and such, surrounded by papers all about soft tissue sarcomas and emails reminding me to complete evaluations, sometimes I just wish I would kick back and snooze on a chair without a care in the world (like Jeter is doing near me).  But I can’t, and I have learned that this is for the best, as I get kind of squirrely when I get bored.

Patrick keeps putting his winter coat on the chair and Jeter really likes sleeping on it.  On a side note, this is odd because Jeter rarely sleeps curled up.  He is more of a sprawler.

Patrick keeps putting his winter coat on the chair and Jeter really likes sleeping on it. On a side note, this is odd because Jeter rarely sleeps curled up. He is more of a sprawler.

Oh, and along with learning and not being bored comes teaching.  I always wanted to be some sort of teacher (at least most of the time).  And now I am.  I get to teach med students and other residents and other health professionals and patients.  It is wonderful.  Plus, it is promoted.  Very cool.

A con to residency is that I have to start paying back my student loans, even though I still pay some tuition.  Silly.  Good thing the government likes us and gave me a bunch of money off for finishing my degree in a timely fashion and adjusted payments because, well, residents aren’t THAT well paid (no doctor salaries here, at least not real ones).

My biggest con is the erratic schedule thing.  I change rotations every month or two.  That means a complete change in mindset and sometimes hospital and hours.  It gets better once things get more focused on my specialty.  Sleep is a hot commodity.  Time off can be as well.  You learn that you will indeed miss out on things in the outside world and that people don’t always understand.

But, anther positive to all of this is that things do get at least a bit better once this bit is done.  And you learn to appreciate your time more.  And sometimes when you are required to attend some events or learning sessions or even do call, there is free food involved… Free food is always a win!

So, I am thankful for a good program with helpful and delightful residents to get advice from, vent to and hang out with, a husband who doesn’t mind me being a bit bat crazy and family and friends who don’t always get it, but try really hard (or at least smile and nod).  I do like my new normal, whatever it is.   It is an opportunity not everyone gets and I am thankful for it.

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4 thoughts on “Pros and Cons of Residency

  1. I agree.. residency is a bit crazy to try and explain to others. Yep, we still pay a nominal tuition, and we do have a kinda sorta license, but we still make money. I compare it to an apprenticeship more than anything. However, people really get confused when you start explaining fellowships: “Aren’t you already subspecialized in your field?” Ah, no. Rad Onc is a bit of special wunderkid…we subspecialize like you wouldn’t believe. Fun times for the win!

    As well, we are blessed with all the opportunities to teach and it’s so much fun! I enjoy, as well, the presentations and learning about areas that are new to me. Guess that makes us both odd! 🙂 I like spelunking the depths of somewhat esoteric knowledge and let’s be brutally honest, our field is a bit OUT THERE. Beyond the fence of normal medicine there is Radiation Oncology: therapeutics and physics and oncology and radiology and linear accelerators all dancing together in a crazy pattern that I love.

    This after-school message is brought to you by Christmas wrap shopping, yep…shopping for everyone was done in July, 2012, but I ran out of wrap. Be careful, the malls are a wee bit crazy tonight. 0.o

    • Oh my.
      Apprenticeship is a good way to describe it, but then of course you get fellowships and everything gets mucked up a little.
      Our field is indeed a bit out there. I think that is what makes it delightful.
      Ick… I wouldn’t want to do wrap shopping at this point. I am not done the shopping, but am doing the whole early morning shop thing (thank you shift work).

  2. I totally agree on how hard it is to explain IB, why I don’t have an undergrad degree and whether I’m a real doctor yet. Thanks for putting a positive spin on this experience, which im sure, will be extremely arduous.

    • I am glad I’m not the only one who struggles with some of these explanations. They at least make life a bit interesting. It is fun to be different sometimes!

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