Dear First Year Residents,
You’ve just experienced what seems like the most important day of your life – Match Day. While in many aspects it is, it’s also just the beginning of many more “most important days ever.” It could have been days, a week or maybe even just a few hours ago that you opened your match card. Regardless, curiosity is settling in.
You are probably asking yourself a million questions. Where am I going to live? Will I enjoy this new city? What can I expect from my attending physicians? Will I get along with my colleagues? Will anyone help me prepare for life after residency? What should I expect?
First, take a deep breath. You have made it this far and that is something to be very proud of. The selection process you just completed is a “unique” experience- OK, it’s terrible, but you survived it and are on your way towards life as an emergency physician.
If you are reading this letter with disappointment because you did not match with your first ranked program, don’t be. Receiving training through an accredited emergency medicine program will undoubtedly prepare you for your future of seeing patients in the ED. The truth is most EM programs offer similar clinical training and experiences. The EM job market is still thriving and you should be excited for what comes next.
For the next three to four years, you are on the track to becoming an emergency medicine physician. But, there are some important things to remember.
Your residency program is no longer school for the sake of education.
This is a very specific training program designed to prepare you for a career as an emergency physician. Go into your program knowing that much of the terms, didactics and clinical experiences are predetermined for you. Your clinical schedule will be at times intense. Lecture time and individual study requirements will be long.
This is your chance to explore a new city.
Have fun with it! Make the time to explore local eateries, museums and cultural offerings. Although you’ll undoubtedly be busy during your residency, remember to schedule personal time to take care of your physical, mental and emotional health. Part of learning how to be an EM physician is finding a balance that works for you.
Identify mentors early on.
Your attendings have chosen to work in the academic training setting for a reason. They are committed to education and helping young physicians plan the rest of their lives. Engage them early. Ask for their help when planning the next phase of your career.
Build relationships with colleagues and attendings.
You have gained access to a whole network of people by being part of your new program. Make the effort to know your residency colleagues. They may become lifelong friends and sounding boards. You can benefit from the networks of your colleagues and attendings and they can benefit from yours.
Start thinking about your next steps.
As a physician recruiter, it was not unusual to hear from a second year resident about a future job. It is never too early to start looking into different hospitals and health systems- in particular, for those with a clear destination in mind for after residency. A lot of residents get into their residency programs and see this time as the next chapter of their education. They wait until the very end to plan the next stage of their lives when in fact that is really part of the training program. Be proactive, it will help in the long run.
Your residency program will not define you as a physician.
Recruitment teams aren’t offering individuals interviews based solely on their training program. Sure – there are established programs with outstanding reputations, but often the most desirable attributes in new hires are the ones that cannot be measured on a CV. ED Directors and healthcare executives want to know about your interpersonal skills, goals and aspirations, hobbies and interests and other life experiences aside from practicing medicine that will hopefully help shape you as desirable future colleagues and business partners.
You are about to experience first-hand what the rest of your life will be like as a physician. The hours may at times seem too long, the demands high, but in the end your career path will be paved. Take advantage of this time. Become engaged, learn as much as you can, build relationships and benefit from your colleagues. You will be better prepared for the next “most important day ever.”