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    A New Year’s awakening: Life lessons from residency

    headshot of Dr AfsharI’ve never been a New Year’s resolution kind of girl. But there is something attractive about the idea that you can tell yourself you will “ctrl + alt + delete” to refresh and revise some aspect of your life over which you think you have control. It’s a chance for a small self-renewal in some shape, size, or form. Sometimes, feeling like you can control one aspect of your life is all you need as a resident to remember that you are not working in senseless automata.  Dr. Lockwood’s Top 10 list inspired me to reflect on a few residency-related New Year’s realizations (and resolutions) of my own.

    Residency is intensely socially isolating, especially for those of us who have a large part of our personal and social lives unassociated with medicine. Friends I knew outside of medicine have slowly stopped inviting me out. I guess responding to invitations with, “sorry, but I’m working,” gets old quickly. Many holidays would come and go unnoticed, had a nurse not reminded me of the purpose of the night’s potluck. Do not get me wrong, there is something special about delivering the first New Year’s baby. And I realized how lucky I was to be a physician and not a patient when, minutes after midnight on New Year’s Eve, I admitted a patient with a small bowel obstruction following a recurrence of ovarian cancer.

    Here are a few realizations and resolutions for 2015, in no particular order:

    1.        Life is pretty good. Stop complaining. Last week, I rounded on a patient who was on hospital day number 53 and on whose abdomen I had placed my hands at least 30 times during her stay. How lucky am I not to be hospitalized with monochorionic-monoamniotic twins on continuous monitoring at 26 weeks, facing preterm premature rupture of membrane at 24 weeks, or a short cervix and bulging bag and breech at 24 weeks? Yes, I am at the hospital a lot. But I come and go on my own two legs without needing “ambulation privileges” or a physician’s order. I’ve awakened patients up morning after morning at 6 a.m. to ask about interval night events. I’ve watched these women have breakdowns, given them devastating news, and on some lucky days, I have given them hope. I am so thankful that I have been on service to share their experiences. My few minutes of morning rounds seems pretty minuscule in the big picture of their lives.  Residency is hard work, but I can control how I react to the work load. Life is good.

    2.        Stop waiting. Let’s be honest, our 80-hour weeks are better than what our mentors had. We have it pretty good. So, the time is now for that project you’ve been thinking about or that race for which you wantd to train. Yes, you are busy, but you can always make time. Start now and go after it. Don’t wait for this rotation to be over or for residency to end or until your presentation is done. If you want to get going, start now, and if you care about it, you will finish it. Roll up your sleeves and get to work. Stop waiting.


    Yalda Afshar, MD, PhD
    Dr. Afshar is a Maternal-Fetal Medicine Fellow in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of California, Los Angeles


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