’10 Things I Learned from Daily Shadowing US Surgical Residents’


For those that are not clear what residency is about or what it even is.

Residency is a period of your life during which you undergo intensive training to become a specialist in a field of your choosing. Yea, I love the sound of that, because it automatically frames the approach I’d like you to have while reading this post. Prior to this experience, I had heard so many converging and diverging opinions about what a residency in surgery is, most of them being geared towards the negatives and hardships, as a sign of warning or “Beware of Surgical Residency in the US”! But today, I can’t be grateful enough for having had this experience of being with surgical residents for a period of time and sharing into their daily living. That was the only true way I could make an opinion on this topic for myself, and here are 10 key lessons I learned.

 

1. During Residency, you are being trained to become someone greater than who you already are.

 

 

And think about it: you go to a specific program “to be trained” in a specific speciality. This implies that the goal is to make you become a person greater than the person you were when you started. Now, people often think that training is limited to “academia”, and thus ignore and pass on any opportunity to be trained at life: in reality, while you’re learning to take care of your patients, you also have to deal with a) families who need reassurance that everything is going to be OK, those who will soon learn that their child will be permanently disabled from a failed procedure or those to whom you’ll have to break the bad news of their father passing. And then, there are b) colleagues who pass on their frustration to you or those who are not as efficient as you’d like them to be. Let’s not forget the c) Chiefs and Attendings who hold you to high standards of performance as you climb up in the ladder of your training, and any other entity that you may encounter.

That being said, you learn to take blows and receive them with grace, you learn to assess your reactions to situations and apply critical thinking in emergent situations, and you learn to solve problems on the spot. All these are opportunities for greatness.
2. Surgical Residency Training Will Challenge You.

 

 

 

“What doesn’t challenge you doesn’t change you”. One of the reasons why this type of residency training is so “tough” or “difficult”, has to do with the fact that it challenges parts of you that were never challenged before, and pushes you to greater heights. A surgical resident told me “training would stretch you mentally, physically and emotionally to levels that you would not expect”. And that is completely OK. If you’re not pushed, you will not grow, you will not learn and you will not achieve your full potential. So do not resist the force.

3. You “need” a Support System.

 

Getting into residency is almost like getting into a marriage. You can’t get there alone, with no one to back you up, or catch you when you fall. Ever wondered why there are “witnesses”, best man and maid of honor at weddings? Because those are the first people that are supposed to be there for you when you can’t be there for yourself, and re purpose your focus so that you can get back on track when the boat is rocked. During residency training, you are married to medicine. To your patients. To your colleagues. To your attending physicians. To your chiefs. And so, you need support outside of that circle. You need someone to talk to about your good days and your bad days. For some people, that support system is a wife, a husband, an amazing bae. For me, that support system (during my experimenting days) is God. Whoever it is, pick your support system, because you cannot bear the weight of 5-6-7- years of surgical training alone. A lot of people have been burned out, and you don’t want to be one of them.

 

  1. Know Who to Rant to

 

This goes hand in hand with point #3. Let me make something clear to you. Someone who shares the same struggles, the same fight or the same enemy as you is not necessarily your friend. In life, you will meet people who you connect with because you’re at the same stage in your life, or you share the same difficulties and you can relate. That does not mean you are friends and you get to share your deepest pains, secrets or complaints with them. At most, you are colleagues or allies. And that is again, why it’s very important to have an outlet, a person (outside of work) who you can share openly with. You need to have someone who has your back. For me, again, that person is God. In fact, I’d talk to God in a prayer, anytime my mind felt like it was going south. I’d scream, yell or cry, but I’d let it out to God.

 

  1. Be a Team Player

 

“Do onto others as you’d like them to do onto you”. When your co-resident falls, you pick him up. No questions asked, no strings attached, no venting. Everyone makes mistakes, and cohort training requires solidarity and unity. Even though we’re trained to be competitive and to always outdo one another, you need to learn how to be a team player and really work for the greater good of the team. Because at the end of the day, you can fly high if you fly solo, but you won’t go very far.

 

  1. The First Year in Residency is one of the Hardest

 

This is no news, it applies in all fields: just like the first year teaching, the first year away from your family, the first year in the army, etc. It’s the groans of new beginnings, but you get used to it because you learn how to embrace it and manage it.

 

  1. It Gets Better

 

I find it very enriching to talk to residents at different stages of their training, because it gives you an idea of the mindset at different levels. The point of view of a first year resident is not the same as that of a third year, 5th year or final year. With that being said, no matter how hard years 1 and 2 were, some residents kept going on, and they had a reason to. It gets better, or you just get better at it!

  1. You don’t need clothes

 

The first things that I told myself after a few days in the unit was “I will have to sell all my clothes” and “I can live on five outfits per year”. You literally stay in scrubs for more than half of your day. Everyday. For the entire week. This means that technically, the only time you’ll need a new outfit is to go to church on Sunday (or Saturday), or to grab a bite with friends one of those nights. Otherwise, you’ll live in scrubs for the next 5-6-7 years of your life. Same style. Same size. Same color.

 

  1. You Learn to Appreciate Small Blessings.

 

After my first week on the ward, I never thought I’d ever appreciate seeing my family, taking a warm shower or having a homemade meal like I did on the weekend of the first week. When you’re always on the go, sleep for 4 hours, eat quick meals and take quick showers, you really do learn to be grateful for the days when your meals, showers and sleep time were longer. Intense training has a way of making you be grateful for little things that you so often take for granted. Wait, you will see.

 

  1. Sometimes, you wonder what’s the hardest: being the doctor, being the patient or being the patient’s family.

 

There have been so many situations when I have had to ask myself that question, but I am yet to find the answer. What I found, however, was that I so often was swamped in my own internal complaints about how sleepy, hungry, tired or annoyed I was that I never got the time to think about Mrs Jane Doe who is anxiously sitting in the waiting room, wondering, hoping and praying that her husband survives that life-threatening surgery; Mrs. Janette Doe who comes to see her disfigured daughter in the intensive care unit everyday, fighting for her life after a severe head trauma on her way to school, or Mr John Doe, whose only sister just got paralysed from a motor vehicle accident. Sometimes, you wonder if you really have the worst part.

If you’re planning on doing surgical residency training in the USA, this article is for you. Do whatever is in your power to secure an observership or subinternship in a program of your choice, so you can actually “experience” the life of a resident. Nothing compares to living this yourself. Whilst it is advisable to listen to people who have walked that walked and talked that talked, do not be discouraged by the negative opinions or warning signs: everyone has a different experience.

 

PS: I am not a lifestyle or career blogger. I am a travel blogger, but I felt the need to share this piece on this amazing blog, to all those who can benefit from it. With every post I write, I always aim at encouraging one person to pursue their dreams. If you want to feel inspired by my travels and be motivated to live life to your full potential, make sure you check out my blog and subscribe Here . Feel free to email me! 🙂

Love,

Clem!

 

Diary of a stressed house officer| 5 coping tips. 

Hey guys! How’s it going?

I’m currently in Lagos for just two days. 😦 I wish I could stay longer but i have to go back to work on Monday, yes I’m aware it’s a public holiday but when you’re a Doctor, public holiday is nothing exciting. It’s just another day. Especially if you’re on call, it’s pretty much like a weekend call. 

Anyway, im home and wide awake so I decided to type this post. 


Let’s get right in, shall we?

1. Prepare your mind for the worst. 

I don’t mean to scare you but it works well for me. I prepare my mind for the worst and  nothing can really surprise me anymore. Just know it’s going to be one long year and once you’ve accepted the fact that you’re in for struggle, you’ll be fine.

2. Eat. 

I really have no shame for confidently writing this because I have a terrible eating habit. I go from not eating to binge eating and the cycle goes on and on. It’s very easy to be overwhelmed with work and forget to eat. Yes, I didn’t think it was possible to forget to eat either until I started housejob. Have snacks in your bag. Work can go from zero to one hundred real quick and before you know what’s happening, it’s 8pm and you’ve not had a proper meal all day. 

3. 

Be nice but not too nice. 

I know it’s like I’m contradicting myself but I started house job with the ‘I’m going to be nice to everyone’ mentality and it didn’t take long for me to be like ‘uh fuck it’. Nigerians don’t like nice people. Nigerians respect you when you’re mean and you yell. Sadly. I mean, I’m not saying disrespect anybody but don’t let people walk all over you especially the nurses because they tend to think they know better and they always want you to do what they want you to do but if you really know what you’re doing, they can’t bullshit you into doing anything. Bottom line is know what you’re doing and stand your ground. Respectfully tell them to do their work and do yours. Nurses can be your best friend and your worst nightmare. 

4. 

Don’t forget to read. I can count how many times I’ve opened my book to read. You’ll learn everyday and it gets overwhelming sometimes but get a small notebook and write down things you see/hear/learn so you can find time to go over them. I can’t promise you that you’ll find time. From being on call and not sleeping to doing 5hour ward round to being yelled at. Honestly, all I think about is sleep. I can’t come and die. Housejob kinda makes you better at clinical skills than theory because who has time to read honestly? 

5. 

Rest. Rest. Rest.

I know this might sound like a foreign term to you but you gotta find time to rest. Even if you have to ’tissue’ to sleep. Do what you gotta do smartly. Except you’re ready to overwork yourself and burn out/collapse. I’ve heard stories from people i know and random people of how doctors faint at work from exhaustion. How sad is that? I have friends that have collapsed at work. It’s really not that deep. Do your work but try to rest. If you’re known to do your work well, no one can fault you for taking some time off to rest. I know it’s hard for some people *coughs*. I’m a workaholic and I barely rested these past few months but hey, even if I can’t take my own advice i can help someone out there! 
I hope you enjoyed reading this post. 

Want more tips? 

Drop a comment!

– TOSIN 

Two months….

You guys! I have two months left and i’m done with house job. I’m so excited!!! I’m officially starting a countdown. I can’t wait.

It feels like i started just yesterday. It really went by quickly. I remember feeling some type of way about moving to Ibadan. I remember the orientation process and my first day as a Doctor. It was overwhelming. How naive and clueless i was! It was ridiculous.

I have learnt and grown so much. I have met some cool people. I have worked with some stressful people and commended myself on how much I’ve grown by just being able to deal with them.

I started my internship with Obstetrics and Gynaecology, then moved to paediatrics and then Surgery. I’ve completed the first month in Medicine. .

I remember finding out I was posted to GIT/Liver unit and I was sad and happy at the same time. Sad because the unit is mad stressful in this hospital and happy because I actually don’t mind GIT. It was my favorite system back in Med school. I even did an elective rotation in GIT. That’s how much I loved it. 

The first month was a bit stressful as I was getting used to the unit. People weren’t exactly doing their work so it made everyone tense. I don’t mind the unit now though. I know what’s expected of me and what I need to do. 

Personally, I’ve been feeling somehow. Not sure if I can call it depression because that’s pretty big but I just don’t know if this is what I want to do with my life. I’m not sure being a Doctor makes me happy. A lot of people have said it’s probably because I’m in Nigeria and everything here is stress but deep down I feel like I’ll be miserable if I end up doing this forever. I’ve spoken to a few people about it and everyone is basically like you’ve got your whole life ahead. Ultimately, you gotta do what makes you happy. I mean, I love helping people feel better. It’s really overwhelming when you see someone come into the hospital really bad – almost dead ‘bad’ and they eventually leave conscious and well. It’s really amazing and the feeling that you played a role in making that happen is not something I can even discuss. Tew much! But I still wake up and feel sad. Almost like this is not what I should be doing with my life. Hopefully , i figure it out soon. Pray for me guys! 

On to happier news, I met my cute ass nephew last week. 😍  I’m looking forward to finishing housejob and starting NYSC much later in the year. I also look forward to next month as I’ll be welcoming my second nephew to the world. Super exciting. Titi is getting married in August so that’s super lit. Such a blessed year for my family tbh. 

What kind of post would this be if I don’t share pictures from the past few months? 
For more pictures follow lifewithtwotees and napphotog on instagram. 

Life! Oh wait…..

How’s it going guys?

  • I’m currently typing this in my room and i’m on call.
  • My call has been okay. So far, so good.
  • I am half way done with my surgery posting!
  • I am almost done with housejob y’all! Isn’t that crazy?
  • I can now sort of say i’m in a long distance relationship. LOL. Hate it.
  • Well, technically it’s not that long.
  • I finally got a room to myself in the hospital.
  • It’s such a purple room. I love it.
  • I almost forgot…. I’m 26 years old now. OMG. I’m old.
  • I had a weird birthday.
  • I was kinda depressed because i put too much pressure on myself and i felt like i’m not where i want to be in life.
  • I felt so much better the day after though. I realised how blessed I am and for that I was really grateful. I mean, I have the best family.. super supportive and shit… I have the best boyfriend. Super kind and amazing tbh.
  • I wish i wasn’t on call today. I would’ve been watching a movie with bae.
  • He went without me. Imagine that?!
  • March is almost over… Where is the year flying to. Not complaining tho.
  • Hope you guys are having a great month so far.
  • I will blog about my plastic surgery posting soon.
  • I am tired of seeing wounds. It’s disgusting tbvh.

5months… 

So i remember when I was always ranting about not having a job and now I have 5 months left in this house job struggle. 

– It has actually been going well. Not perfect but I wasn’t expecting perfect so it’s all good! 

– Bae is leaving this month. He’s going back home. 😦 

– I am almost done with Urology you guys! 

– It’s crazy how I thought I’d struggle. Well, I Kinda did for the first week. At some point I was sure my SR could not stand me. But it went from 0-100. She told me couple of days how she knows a well behaved girl when she sees one and how she can tell I was brought up properly and that there’s nothing better than a good upbringing! 

Who woulda thunk it?!?! 

– I have three more calls and I’m moving to Plastic Surgery! I really like Plastic Surgery so I’m looking forward to it and hoping to learn a lot. 

– I hated Urology before I started but i actually find it interesting now. 

Omgggg! I’m turning 26 in a couple of days! Whut?!?! 

– I’m old y’all! 

– I spent the weekend with bae and it was amazing. 

– I’m on call tomorrow again so bleh. 

– I finally took my camera out of my room today. Exciting! Since I got my iPhone, I’ve neglected my camera. 

– I did not take a lot of pictures tho.


– These are iPhone pictures. 

Have a lovely week guys! Kick ass! 

– TOSIN 

6 months….

My nephew turned one last week. Cutest boy!

So…. Can y’all believe it’s been six months already since I started housejob??? I can actually. Ive basically stopped blogging, reading non medical books, going out and doing so many other things I love. The whole process has been exhausting but I can’t complain because I met the most amazing person in this mess of a place. 

I’m officially done with Obstetrics and Gynecology and Paediatrics and I’m currently in Lagos for a family event. 

Everyone said Paeds would be horrible. I actually expected the worst. I was pleasantly surprised though. I met some amazing people and I had a blast. I’m not here saying I didn’t feel like slapping people everyday but it wasn’t as bad as they made it seem. Paediatrics was stress sometimes. It was frustrating meeting Parents that obviously have no plans for their kids. Some did not even care. Highlight of my paeds rotation would be the moment we discharged a premature baby I was so attached to. His parents just got married so it sorta hit me like ‘damn, this could happen to anyone I know’. I met baby Miracle when I started my SCBU posting this month and the baby went from stable to really sick to stable.  It was just really a roller coaster. At some point he was the only male baby on the ward. Lol Even when we were distributing patients, the parents insisted I made him my patient. Long story short,  baby Miracle got discharged and guess who wasn’t there? Yeah. Me. I was so happy nonetheless. Watching a baby almost die is the most depressing thing ever. 

Guess what? The most random thing just happened. I just got a call from Baby Miracle’s parents. They were calling to say hi and tell me Baby Miracle does not miss my daily pcv checks and frequent pricks. Lmaoo

My worst moment in Paediatrics happened when I was doing my ward posting. I was in pulmonology unit. I was on call on the haemonc ward. Immediately I started my call, the nurse told me a patient is complaining and I should probably go see her. I went over to the bed side and asked the mother what the problem was. She said her daughter is in a lot of pain and she’s a strong girl so for her to be moaning, the pain must be intense. I asked what analgesics the child has been on. Luckily for me, the primary doctors were still on the ward so I asked them what they usually give her for the pain and they said she reacts badly to opioids so sadly, it’s just the usual IV paracetamol. I was like damn. Well, I went ahead and gave her some, collected my worklist, dropped my phone number and left the ward. I went back to give drugs at some point that night and the girl was not looking good at all. Thankfully, my reg was around. We both walked to the bedside and the mother was just complaining that something is off with her girl. Before we could even ask her what she meant, the girl started gasping. The mother started singing that ‘ You are great.. every single thing about you is great’ song. Said that’s her daughter’s favourite song. Then she told us that whatever happens, do not resusitate. The girl took her last breath and we just stood there looking. The mother did not stop singing. I didn’t even know when I shed a tear. It was so depressing. Then the part I couldn’t handle was when the father came and the mother who has been so strong all along started crying… They basically took turns crying for like 30minutes. Then the mother came up to me and brought all her unused consumables. (In Nigeria, patients buy their own consumables- needle, syringes, water for injection, gloves, cotton wool e.t.c) and gave them to me that she knows they’ll be useful to someone else.

Yeah, that call was the most fucked up call ever. The song was stuck in my head for like a week. so very dramatic. 

Btw, the lil girl had nephroblastoma. 

Ok enough about Paediatrics! 

Starting my Surgery posting next week and I’m not exactly excited because I don’t like surgery either. The consolation right now is that I’ve done my least favourite so how bad can this one be?

Apparently neurosurgery is the worst unit so I’m praying I don’t get posted there but people have done it and they did not die so we move!

I’m in Lagos and I’ve not even done anything. I was supposed to get a new phone but everyone has been discouraging me. I’m just tired. 

I’ll probably go visit my friends and sister and buy a couple of things. 

Oh and I need to do my hair. Ugh 

What phone should I get? I need one with a badass camera. Okay maybe not badass but good enough. I’m thinking iPhone 6s or Samsung s6 edge. Epp me please! 

January is almost over. I am excited just knowing I’ll finish housejob this year. 

Are you excited for the rest of the year?! 

October

So, October is pretty much over and I’m just here asking myself where it went. Not complaining tho. I’m officially done with obstetrics and gynecology. 3 months of house job gone, 9 months to go!!! Whoop! I’m starting Paediatrics on Monday and from what I’ve heard, it’s terrible. I’m trying hard not to make that cloud my experience. A wise man once said ‘ Just because it did not go well for someone else does not mean it’ll be the same for you. You’re different.’

Of course the wise man is my father and of course he’ll always tell me I’m special but still I’m going to say those words to myself everyday if I have to. 

The roster is out for my first month in paediatrics and I’m already sort of depressed. I’m on call 14 times next month (pretty much alternate day calls). The only not so depressing thing about the roster is that I’m starting with pulmonology and I heard it’s one of the best units to be in. So yay! 
I already posted a tweet about my next blog post being a bit personal. 

So do y’all remember my last post about guys in general months ago (Read it here). Where I sort of gave up on humans.

Now, as you all know, my plan was to just do this one year housemanship thing and move on with my life. I had zero interests in finding or dating anyone. Little did I know that I was just saying my own. 

I met the most amazing person two months ago. I’m sure he’ll read this and be feeling himself but it’s all good. 

I remember clearly what happened the day I met him. I was on call the day before and I was cranky as hell. I walked into my ward that Saturday morning because I got a message about the unit doctors meeting up for post op round. I was already up all night and was really upset. My damn period started the night before and of course I had dysmenorrhoea and the nurses had to give me some analgesics. Anyway, so as I walked in, I see this guy sitting and writing something. I’ve never seen his face before but I knew some house officers just started ObGyn. So I asked him if he was the one on call and he said yes. Then I went ahead to complain about the fact that I was on call the night before and also the fact that I  got there before everyone else. I’m sure he was like I don’t even know you ma. ‘ Woz all dis story?’ I remember asking what school he finished from and just trying to talk while I waited for the rest of the unit doctors to arrive. 

We did our post op round and left. Obviously I went home (outside the hospital). Only for my Senior Registrar to call me and request for the two patients’ PCVs. I was like this is just fantastic. I had zero plans of going back to the hospital so I went to the house officers WhatsApp page to dig out this guy’s number since he’s on call on my ward, he can help abi?

I sent a WhatsApp message but it was just a tick for the longest time so I decided to text him. I don’t know why I didn’t just call him. Sent a text begging him to help me do it and get the results to me. He didn’t respond so I was like great!

My SR kept calling later for the results and I was forming ‘ it’s not out yet’ secretly hoping this guy had done it. 

Few minutes past 5 or 6, I get a text from him about the results and I was like ah Thank you. That was it. The conversation ended there. Was that even a conversation?
Somehow, we ended up talking on WhatsApp and the rest is history. Now, I was a bit worried about the fact that we are kind of different but then again I think being different from someone gives you a chance to learn from the person.

Long story short, I am glad we did that post op round. 😊😊😊

OMG GUYS! Two more months and the year is over. Isn’t that insane?

Wish me luck in paediatrics guys! I’ll need all the luck I can get tbh.

How was the month October for you and what plans do you have for the new month?