10 Habits to Prep for the Match

If you are getting ready for the Match, you should have already picked your specialty and are looking at different options for residency programs. As any medical graduate, this is not a time for rest following graduation. However, foreign medical graduates have a few more things on their list if they want to be eligible for the Match (visa, ECFMG certification, etc.) Your time during The Match should be spent actively engaging yourself in the medical community and gaining any experience available through internships or mentorships. It can get pretty hectic, and one of the keys to success during this time is the proper management of life. Here are a few habits that will prep you for your life during the Match.

  1. Schedule:

There are all sorts of deadlines and appointments you will have during the Match. You should have already developed your own system for successful scheduling. If not, now is the time. An electronic schedule via Google or other technology is advised as a primary calendar, but don’t be afraid to get creative. Always keep a master calendar, but if post-its help you to get certain things done, recognize that. Use the tools at your disposal, but develop good habits to make you less reliant on your creative tools and more reliant on dependable primary schedules.

  1. Look at Requirements:

Start studying residency programs immediately. Look at their requirements. Look at their statistics in regards to accepting foreign medical graduates. Talk to other residents, and make sure you like the environment surrounding the programs you consider. You cannot have enough information about your residency. The more informed you are, the better you will perform during interviews.

  1. Study:

You still have exams in the horizon, so this is no time to lose your knack for information retrieval. The medical profession is a profession for lifelong learners, so never stop. With that said, studying beyond your capacity will not yield any better results.

  1. Eat:

It is important to take care of yourself in order to maintain a smart mind and an active body. Both are going to be required if you are to make it through this time. Don’t celebrate your graduation from med school too much, and don’t waste your money on fast food. Drink your water, and prep your own food or choose healthy options. This will make you ready for every day on this adventure and keep your mind sharp.

  1. Sleep:

It will not help you in any way to stay up late studying. Your mind will be tired and won’t retain anything more than it would had you spent very little time studying. Save room for sleep in your schedule, and you’ll be more productive.

  1. Build your Team:

The path to residency can get lonely because there is so much to do. Don’t set aside friends and family, as it increases your risk for burnout. If you are in a new area, meet new people. You will need them to bring some of the humanity back to this process.

  1. Practice:

Practice your interviews from the beginning. By the time you get to actual interviews, you should have your answers polished and be able to answer unexpected questions with ease. Half of the battle with interviews is making sure your personality shows. Interviewers don’t want an automated response from a memorized answer. Practice is the only way you can deliver real responses to tough questions.

  1. Meditate:

Meditation can mean so many things, but in this case it means spending some time on yourself for reflection. A residency is a career path, and you want to make the right choice professionally but also personally. Add time for reflection, so you make the right choice for your personality and strengths.

  1. Have Fun:

While you do need reflection, you also need fun. Go to a comedy show, or go on a date. Laugh a little. Remember that you are a normal person and a physician. Forgetting that you are a normal person with normal needs will make your journey tough, but a little laughter can fix it.

  1. Exercise:

Exercise can be your way of meditating or your way of remaining healthy. It is a stress reliever and a mind clearer. There are rarely any bad side effects and typically only good side effects. It can be difficult to develop a routine with non-routine schedules, so make sure you have some way of fitting it in.

Does it seem like all of these things are impossible to accomplish? They probably are. You will not be able to check all of these things off of your list every week, and prioritization is essential. However, remembering that each of these things is important will help you to fit some of them in on your schedule, and your sense of self will survive this process.

How to Take Care of Yourself as a Medical Resident

If you’ve recently Matched into a medical residency program as a foreign medical graduate (FMG) or are just beginning the Match process, then you have been warned about burnout syndrome. This warning came not because of your status as an FMG but rather the overwhelming amount of residents and medical doctors who leave the profession because of burnout.

Burnout is described as mental fatigue caused by constant stressors. Stressors during the first year of residency may come from adjusting to a new location, missing family, large workloads and learning/studying demands. Additionally, physicians are expected to exercise empathy with patients in order to provide better quality care. This caring for others is essential but does take a toll on the physician’s self-care.

The results of burnout do not affect the resident only. While new physicians may experience depression, anxiety, disturbed sleep and co-existing effects of burnout, patients also suffer. Evaluation and treatment from a provider who is burned out will not have the same level of quality. The provider may not have the focus necessary to make a diagnosis, and they may lack the empathy to deliver care in a way that fits the situation. In more extreme cases, the resident will leave the career path. All of that hard work for nothing.

As a new medical resident, you might think that burnout is not in your future. Especially after getting Matched, you’re likely pumped up and ready to get in there and practice medicine. This is normal, and you should be proud and excited, but don’t forget that you need to care for yourself during this time. Preparation and studying is essential to a successful residency. Also essential is self-care. A little focus on yourself will make your hard work less of a stressor, and you will reap many rewards in the form of motivation and mental health.

Ten Ways to Take Care of Yourself as a Medical Resident

  1. Have a hobby:

Your hobby should not be your career. Since you’ve made it this far, you are likely very passionate about medicine. However, this isn’t what your colleagues are going to want to talk about at dinner parties (at least not the entire time). Not having anything else can remove your sense of self, and it can make you feel beholden to your career at an unhealthy level. You are not a physician only. You are a person who happens to be a physician. Right now that might be hard to believe, but if you have a hobby, you’ll get some of that back. Part of the reason burnout happens is because physicians get absorbed by their careers leaving very little left of the actual person.

  1. Live with people:

Another reason for burnout is that much of medicine is emotionally charged. You will deal with death and grief, pain and suffering. It takes its toll, and you need to talk about it. Living alone is a perfect way to sink into solitude and depression, but having a couple roommates will save you. They will not only notice your slippage into the doldrums, but they are there to lend their shoulders or simply their ears. Especially if you’ve moved away, having these types of connections can be very good for emotional health. If you are a private person, make sure you have your own private areas.

  1. Exercise:

As a physician, you know about the health effects of exercise. Don’t forget about the mental health benefits. If you can do it outside, even better.

  1. Journal:

Much like communicating with others, expressing yourself on paper is an excellent stress reliever. This is particularly important when you can’t really talk about certain situations aloud.

  1. Start a project:

Much like a hobby, a project is a distraction from your career and a reminder that you are more than your position in the medical field. Any project, even doing your backed up laundry, can have a meditative effect. At the end, you get a normal, everyday sense of accomplishment without the stressful grandeur that medical accomplishment can sometimes create.

  1. Eat and drink healthily:

Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and fast food. If you eat healthy, your mind will thank you. You’ll be less likely to suffer volatile emotions, and you’ll be able to persevere during those long nights and trying circumstances.

  1. Sleep:

Yes, you can sleep as a resident. And you should…any time you get. Long hours happen, but ensuring that you get enough sleep is important for your physical and mental health.

  1. Engage in leisure:

Leisurely activities are closely connected to well being. This isn’t to dissuade a person from hard work and studying habits, but even the grueling expected work of being a resident needs to be coupled with some leisurely activities.

  1. Meditate:

If you haven’t practiced meditation, it is a great way to center yourself and awaken your mind to the positive aspects of life. Finishing an effective episode of meditation is like taking a huge breath of fresh air. It is cleansing and invigorating.

  1. Laugh:

In the midst of everything, don’t forget to laugh. It truly is the best medicine for physician burnout. Get together with friends, watch funny movies, and tell jokes! Life is too short to live without laughter.

Residency is not easy, and you won’t have time to fit all of these activities in between the necessary demands of your career. But try to do some of them, and don’t forget to take care of yourself during this incredible and rewarding journey.