By Shree Agrawal
I am about two months into my intern year as a surgical resident. In anticipation of this transition, I have spent the last few months in nervous apprehension about the responsibilities of a surgical resident. As a medical student, I experienced small glimpses of practicing medicine when I was on acting internships and elective rotations. The activities on these rotations incorporated the most meaningful components of entering any subspecialty. Each rotation offered an opportunity to scrub into incredible cases, to have the luxury of time when speaking with patients, and being able to write notes and synthesize clinical pictures without the pressure of orders or an ever-beeping pager. The limitations of electronic medical systems and the legal liability of medical student autonomy translated to unfettered enjoyment of medicine.
From witnessing residents above me, undoubtedly I expected intern year would be a different experience. With a new pager in hand, two new letters after my name and a rudimentary understanding of order sets and navigating an electronic medical system, I started internship year. It felt awkward introducing myself as Dr. Agrawal, feeling the full gravity my new title carried while still transitioning from the mindset of my past life as a medical student.
At the end of a particularly terrible night on call, in which my pager was relentless, my patients weren’t doing as well as I had hoped, and I felt pulled in multiple directions at once, I remember getting into my car and sobbing on the drive home. I confided in my co-interns and felt less alone, less overwhelmed, knowing this experience was pervasive and would be both transient and common in the coming years.
That night passed, and nights similar to that one started to feel slightly more manageable. However, I realize now more than ever how deliberate I have to be about practicing gratitude to remind myself of my motivation to be in this role. While I would like to think practicing gratitude is not a unique effort among trainees; however, in my new role as a resident, it required more energy than I anticipated. The motivation to enter this field became larger than the one-dimensional paragraph limited to a residency personal statement.
I am more intentional about cherishing the one-on-one moments I have with my patients, maximizing the short time I can allot to each person. If ever there is an opportunity to go to the operating room, I try to replay the moments on the way home. When I see a friendly face – whether one of the nurses, chaplains, or my mentors, I savor a few extra moments to have a conversation, to feel supported and encouraged. Often I reflect on how incredible it is to work with the people around me. Even as the patients come and go, it is the co-residents and other care providers who make the steep learning curve worthwhile. To have the opportunity to connect with and care for my patients is humbling, especially when they refer to me as Dr. Agrawal. Realizing this keeps me grounded as I work towards becoming a surgeon.
To any other interns who may be feeling a little isolated and who may be struggling to adjust, I hope you have a few moments to re-center and re-focus on the most meaningful parts of your day so that tomorrow feels a little better than today.
Shree Agrawal is a urology resident at the Cleveland Clinic Glickman Urological and Kidney Institute. She completed her B.S. in biology degree and medical degree at Case Western Reserve University, as well as a clinical research fellowship in genitourinary reconstruction at the Cleveland Clinic. She is passionate about research surrounding patient decision-making and longitudinal patient care. She currently blogs for Doximity and the Association of Women Surgeons. In her free time, she enjoys practicing yoga, baking and cooking. You can follow her on Twitter: @ShreeAgrawal21
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