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New Resident in July? How to Manage the Stress

Emily S. Goncalves, MD, MBA

Disclosures

July 16, 2021

July is notoriously known as a time to stay out of the hospital as the new first-year residents start their residency. Maybe that's true, but I can speak from personal experience that I was well supervised as an intern as I took my first call on the 4th of July. I remember that on my first day of residency, the attending physician announced to all of my patients and to the nursing staff that it was my first day as a doctor. I'm not sure if this comment made me or the patients more nervous! But they were good sports as I shakily performed a neurologic exam on them.

I was pleasantly surprised with how well patients handled being treated by a new doctor and have to say that most patients were pretty friendly to me.

As a marathon runner, July is also when marathon training truly begins, as many of the marathon races are approximately 3-4 months away and training blocks for a marathon usually range from 12 to 20 weeks. For me, it was tough to balance these two major commitments during my intern year. My runs were slow in July, my anxiety was high, and every day of work seemed daunting. I asked myself if I was taking on too much too fast but didn't want to give up on training for the Chicago Marathon, so I trudged on through with the training. The training wasn't easy and I found myself so fatigued one morning that I tripped on a run before work.

I can confidently say that I didn't kill any patients in July (yes, I'm in psychiatry where the bar for killing patients is relatively low compared with a specialty like surgery), but I did worry every time I ordered Thorazine (a common antipsychotic used in my hospital) that it would cause QT prolongation in my patients. I diligently checked whether every patient had an updated ECG before ordering this as an as-needed medication for patients who were agitated in the hospital.

I also felt like I was constantly bothering the senior resident and nurses on call the first few months of residency. At times I felt like a nuisance, but for the most part, the senior resident was understanding of my questions and concerns. Nurses actually made my job much easier too and literally could tell me what to do in almost every situation! They were the best.

I can let you know that my anxiety at work lessened as each day passed and I returned to some pretty fast running. I believe that having another goal of training for the marathon was a good distraction and a way to commit to working out each day after long hours.

My advice to patients, new residents, senior residents, nurses, and attendings is to have some patience for one another and yourself this summer. July is never an easy month in the hospital, but we all have a common goal of wellness and happiness. Oh, and try to get in some exercise to ease the stress of the job. Even if it's fitting in a 20-minute walk, I can guarantee that you'll thank yourself later.

My marathon during that intern year was the best marathon of my life (and I had already run seven by that time). I proved to myself that I was capable of more than I thought, both in medicine and running, and that continuing to run could only help me throughout my residency.

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About Dr Emily Goncalves
Emily S. Goncalves, MD, MBA, is a psychiatry resident at Delaware Psychiatric Center in New Castle. She is a competitive runner and ran for Syracuse University. She continues to live an active lifestyle and has competed in eight marathons, including the Boston Marathon. Emily hopes to share her passion for running with her patients and is interested in pursuing a career in consultation and liaison psychiatry. She also enjoys writing about her running adventures.

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