Every year, July is met with anticipation on many levels in the hospital. Medical students are starting their senior services, with some hoping to become the next class of surgical residents. Surgical interns are hoping not to kill anyone and the chief residents are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. There’s always talk of the “July Effect” but no one seems to talk of the “July Opportunity” to mentor and guide trainees through the next phase of training. This post is for those trainees and is our way of saying thank you to those that have trained and mentored us through these transitions.
- Be Active. Soak it all in. Spend as much time as you can around other residents and learn from them. Master the power of observation. You have to actively watch the residents and staff. Watch how they move their hands in the operating room. Watch where their eyes go in the room, and how they observe the patients and monitors. Learn how to actively observe.
- Be helpful. Sometimes it’s hard to learn your position as a medical student but if you offer to help, more times than not, residents will be receptive. However, your help has to be sincere. There is a big difference between asking, “Is there anything I can help with?” and “I checked on Mr. Smith this afternoon when his NG tube came out. He’s tolerating clears and doing fine. The following tasks were talked about this morning on rounds and do not appear to be completed, may I start finishing these?” If you are a medical student that actively seeks out opportunities to help, your efforts will be noticed and rewarded. The reward is usually more responsibility.
- Work just as hard, if not harder, on rotations you aren’t interested in. Learn how these specialists think and how you can use their knowledge to make you a better surgeon. There is no more rewarding consult than when you call a consulting service and they say you’ve done everything we would do, continue on your current course.
- Once you decide what you want to do, go for it. Do what you can to put yourself in the best position to be where you want to be one day. Start contacting residents or surgeons and start shadowing. Spend some of your spare time with the department. Go to journal club and grand rounds. These are good opportunities to show face, engage, and demonstrate your interest in the field. If you show interest to people, they will be interested in you.
- Be dependable. Honesty and integrity are nonnegotiable for surgeons. Remember that your reputation is like your GPA, it’s easier to maintain than it is to bring up. Decisions are made on the information you provide, if you don’t know, didn’t check, or can’t remember…say so.
- Find happiness where you are. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed, frustrated, etc. Sometimes I forget the amazing parts of the job, so I intentionally spend 5 minutes of the day being grateful. My program director told me that, “Adversity is a given: misery is an option.” #Tarpism
- John Tarpley also said to, “Get in the habit of having good habits.” I would add that these habits need to start early. Surgery is a marathon, not a sprint and consistency is key. Here are some habits that have helped me:
- Figure out what is most important to you and make time for that. This requires an honest look at you and your life goals.
- Read 1 hour or 1 article every day and save the article or notes in a folder.
- Plan consistently. Every day I write down 3 goals for the day that are specific and are geared toward my monthly, and yearly goals. Every week I review my progress and see what worked. Procrastination is not rewarded in surgery.
- Keep the preference cards of your attending surgeons and write down how they do a procedure on the back of those cards. It’s invaluable when you repeat a case with someone and you can instantly review the steps and equipment specific to their technique.
- Set up the electronic medical record (EMR) to work for you. There is almost always a way to flag new results and information in real-time. You never want to be the “I don’t know” person on rounds and if you use the EMR efficiently you’ll shine.
- Be active. Go to the OR!!!!! Soak it all in. Spend as much time as you can around residents and staff. Master the power of observation. You have to actively watch how staff move their hands in the operating room, how they expose anatomy, how they set up their operating room, and how they interact with everyone. Learn how to actively observe.
I hope you enjoyed reading these and I would love for this conversation to continue. Please share the advice that’s been most helpful for you and #DearIntern, #DearMedicalStudent, #JulyOpportunity