Friday, November 7, 2014

What is Residency like?

Have you wondered what going through a medical residency training program is like? You have probably seen episodes of "Grey's Anatomy" and wondered how much of it is true. 

First of all, residency is not sexy or fun! There are no McDreamys (although some thought they were). There are no romps in the call rooms (you are too tired and the rooms are gross). Hopefully there are no cases of syphillis among the staff. 

I did a 3-year emergency medicine residency and it was anything but glamorous. There was the occasional complicated trauma patient like you might see on the show. An open leg fracture with bone sticking out. An eyeball sticking out of its socket. Eviscerated guts spilling onto your shoe. Severed digits. Lots of dramatic, warm oozy blood. But mostly in the ER, your shift is filled with seeing patients in various amounts of pain, with various amounts of authenticity, and various levels of sobriety. Your job is to triage who really needs the ER services and who can go home, which is way more complicated than it sounds sometimes.

"Grey's Anatomy" DOES have it right about a few things. Like the show, residency is full of drama, overbearing attendings, plenty of competition, interpersonal struggles, difficult patients, sleepless nights, and impossible board exams. 

Somehow through all the layers of pain and drama, a medical education emerges. After years of running on the gerbil wheel, you are then ejected out of the cage and become an attending physician with all the answers.

Honestly, I didn't realize how unhappy I was until it was all over. There wasn't a lot of time to dwell on being unhappy.  If you stop to think about how in-over-your-head you are, you drown. So I just kept treading water. My husband, and then-resident himself, helped me stay focused and get through it. (Thanks, honey!) You have to put in your time during residency in order to actually practice medicine and make a living. I know it was harder for residents who didn't have an understanding partner at home.

So even though I went through an actual medical residency, I don't mind watching the ridiculousness of "Grey's." The only semi-Grey's moment I had was when my hubby and I were on call overnight together at the children's hospital. The other residents thought this was SO funny that they decorated my husband's call room with rose petals, soft music and apple juice (champagne). Ironic thing is, neither of us even saw the room because we were so busy taking care of patients all night!! Ah, the memories...