Double Down & Level Up

Okay so I’m about a month into my residency training and do I feel any more like a doctor than the day I was officially granted my M.D.? Marginally.

Do I have a long way to go until I begin to feel like an actual physician who can comfortably treat all kinds of ailments? Clearly.

Am I confident that I will successfully make it there and that I will have a spectacular career where I will positively impact the lives of countless children and their familes? ABSOLUTELY.

I’ll admit, I haven’t really had the same “getting thrown in the fire” experience that many of the interns across the country had when they first started residency about a month ago. Sure, I’ve had true challenges sprinkled here and there throughout my first month of residency that I’ve had to face. But overall, my first month has been a pretty smooth one that comfortably eased me into my intern year. It’s not the start I would have necessarily asked for, but I sure ain’t complaining about it either. While I’ve had several experiences in the clinic throughout these past couple of weeks as well as a couple of shifts in the hospital, all of which occurred outside of my Cardiology experiences where I’ve been mainly shadowing and learning from various Cardiology attendings one-on-one, I still barely feel like I’ve grown much since my fourth-year of medical school. Hell, if someone at this very second introduced me as a fourth-year medical student, I would probably go along with it out of pure instinct for a second before switching gears and reminding them that I was in fact a physician.

With all that said, I’m sure that this will all begin to truly change once I start my two weeks of night shift tomorrow. If my first night shift a couple weeks ago was any indicator of what’s to come, then I better brace myself for the many challenges that lay ahead these next couple of weeks. I’ve truly enjoyed my time on my elective month and did my best to make the most of the free time I’ve had, but I am also ready to begin taking on the tough challenges in residency, those of which will make me a much better and more effective physician overall. The physicians that I look up to have all been positively molded in some way, shape or form by the challenges they’ve experienced during residency and throughout their careers. I want to be able to be as clinically competent as they are and as excellent as they are in whatever I end up doing with my career, so it only makes sense that I shove myself out of my comfort zone in order to give myself a much better chance of achieving this. Leaping out of my comfort zone has done wonders for me in the past and has also even further expanded my zone of comfort, so why stop now?

When I last posted on the blog, I had just returned from Camp Carefree and was just about to start my first day of continuity clinic the very next day as well as my week-long vacation. Well, my first day of clinic was a pretty good one overall, even though I felt like I was bumbling my way through the billing aspects and electronic coordination of care for my patients. The visits themselves were pretty simple and straightforward, but as medical students we don’t really learn much about a lot of the practical things outside of medicine that are done with each patient on a daily basis, like billing and coding. That’s what residency is for. I managed to get through all of that with a considerable amount of help from the attendings and clinical staff in the clinic and was able to deliver effective care to my very first patients (that is, if you don’t count the kids at Camp Carefree). It was cool to be able to serve as their primary care physician and the fact that they saw me in this light really resonated with me as well as empowered me, even if all I did was prescribe some simple medications and provide some helpful information to them.

My week of vacation didn’t really feel like any sort of vacation forreal forreal, because I spent the vast majority of it moving into a new apartment with my fiancée. Not only did we move all of our belongings from one place to another, we also did A LOT of apartment shopping (RIP to my first paycheck 😭) as well as some home improvement type stuff like sanding down and restaining my dining room table, reupholstering my dining room chairs, and building a bar cart from scratch. Sounds like a lot of work huh? Well, it was. Not gonna lie though, it was cool to learn how to do all of that. I felt like the real-life version of a Black Bob the Builder lol. Outside of doing all of that, I did get some downtime at some points during my vacation where I was able to chill with my significant other and some close friends. My vacation wasn’t really that relaxing overall, but it sure was a very productive one. I love our new place and without that vacation time, we definitely would not have been to move everything as fast as we did.

Also, shoutout to the movers we hired. I can’t believe I’ve never used movers before in the past. Y’all already know how much I hate moving, so you ALREADY KNOW that I’m going to be using movers from here on out. Ain’t no way I’m going back to wasting my precious time moving all of my belongings from one place to another on my own. Ain’t no way.

After my vacation ended early last week, the rest of my week was spent shadowing a couple of pediatric cardiologists, continuing to serve as a primary care physician in continuity clinic, taking in valuable information during morning reports and noon conferences, participating in an optional PALS (Pediatric Advanced Life Support) simulation lab (I keep forcing myself to participate in these because I’m so uncomfortable in critical care situations and I don’t want to be stuck looking stupid in a real-life one), taking my first Pediatric in-training exam (this difficult exam is supposed to serve as a baseline of our knowledge, so I probably set the bar pretty low for myself 😂), and completing a day shift in the inpatient wards (wasn’t as crazy as I had expected it to be, thanks to my dope and helpful team!). I especially enjoyed a cardiology session I had with one of the attendings, where I spent a whole morning thoroughly learning from him how to read and interpret echocardiograms. I really appreciated the fact that he invested so much time in making sure that I was understanding the fundamentals he was teaching me by keeping me totally engaged all morning long. I found myself being captivated at how interesting it was to read echos after gaining a basic understanding of how to interpret them, as well as at how crucial physics was in intepreting the images. I was even more amazed that there was a whole sub-specialty within pediatric cardiology that was dedicated to reading images like echocardiograms. 😮 I definitely made a mental note of that!

One other session that I really appreciated was a morning report we had with one of the attendings in the department, where he discussed with us the mistakes he made throughout his time in residency and how important it is to reflect on our mistakes in order to learn from them so that we can become even better doctors. We also discussed how it was just as important not to dwell on the mistakes that we will inevitably make, for that will only put us in a state of constant fear and doubt, which would ultimately hinder us from becoming the doctors that we are all striving to be. I really appreciated this talk because as interns, we all live in constant fear of making an error that could ultimately end up harming a patient, especially in a field like Pediatrics. Okay I probably shouldn’t speak for everyone, but I know that I have this habit of holding myself back in multiple arenas due to the worry of screwing something up. Of course I understand that I will make a ton of mistakes throughout my training and that residency is the best time to make mistakes due to the level of oversight I have and the endless opportunities I have to learn from them. However, knowing all of this doesn’t suddenly make putting yourself out there to make a mistake an easy task.

This session reminded us what we were already told during Orientation; that we as interns were expected to make mistakes and because of this expectation, there were safeguards specifically built to prevent the mistakes from potentially harming anyone. We were also reminded that nobody is perfect and that all the faculty in the residency program have made mistakes at some point in their training and are still not flawless, even to this very day. So with that said, we should not hold ourselves back out of fear, especially because doing so would potentially rob us of priceless learning opportunities that we may never learn otherwise, or may learn in a very less-than-ideal situation in the future when we are further along in our careers. We should accept the fact that mistakes will be made and develop a process to reflect on them, with other advisors and faculty members if necessary. And what’s so beautiful is that pretty much all of the residency program faculty, all the way up to the Program Director, have made themselves readily available for us to talk to them at any time about literally anything.

With all of this in mind, I’ve officially rededicated myself to not allowing fear to hold me back so that I can maximize the quality of my education and my opportunities to improve upon my clinical skills as a whole. I will double down on my efforts to actively push myself out of my comfort zone throughout my intern year and beyond, and will use the mistakes that I will make as teachers that will guide me to the correct way to go about practicing medicine. And last, but certainly not least, I will power on throughout my intern year and beyond with a renewed confidence and vigor that my current and future patients deserve. It may still feel a bit strange to me that I’m a doctor now, but that’s all my patients know me as. It is what I’ve worked so long and hard for. It is what my support system believed that I could achieve.

I am no longer a medical student.

I am now a Resident Physician.

I better start believing it and owning up to it.

On that note, you better start believing in the greatness that you have within yourself if you haven’t already! The only limits in your life are the ones that you’ve either set yourself or have allowed yourself to believe!

I hope your week is a prosperous one!

“Confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong.” – Peter T. McIntyre

– Black Man, M.D.

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