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What I wish I knew before starting residency by Nicolet Finger, DO

 You matched to residency! Now what?


First of all, CELEBRATE! Soak in this break between med school and residency. This amount of free time isn’t often found in the world of medicine, so whether you use it to travel, spend time with family and friends, pick up a new hobby, or re-discover an old hobby, you deserve to enjoy this time. 


These are a few things I wish I had known, or maybe just prepared for a little better, before starting residency.


You won't know everything, and that’s okay because you never will

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Medicine is constantly evolving, and there will always be something new to learn. As a resident, it's important to be humble and acknowledge that you don't know everything. Be open to learning from your colleagues, your patients, and your mistakes. Mistakes are a part of life and medicine is no exception. If you make a mistake, own up to it so your coresidents and attending can help you fix it, then learn from it.


Knowledge is only one piece of what makes a good doctor. What really matters is that your desire to be a lifelong learner, dedication to serving people, respect for evidence-based medicine, ability to lead a team and communicate well, etc.


Learning the basics of personal finance is essential

As exciting as it is to finally expect a paycheck after being a broke medical student for so long, this comes with new responsibilities such as managing your student loans, paying taxes, saving in retirement accounts, etc. There are so many free resources like podcasts, YouTube, and blogs where you can learn the basics!


Some of my favorite resources are The White Coat Investor’s newsletters, blogs, and podcasts. He has a book too, but I find his other resources easier to fit into my day. For example, listening to a podcast while driving or reading a blog while waiting to board a plane.


Things you should learn about/look up before starting residency: types of retirement accounts (e.g. 401k, Roth IRA, 457b, 403b), using a high yield savings account, building an emergency fund, all things student loans (e.g. public student loan forgiveness, refinancing).


I know this seems like a lot, but you were smart enough to make it through medical school and become a doctor – you’re without a doubt smart enough to learn the basics about personal finance! Just read a little bit each day or listen to a podcast on the way to work. Even if you don’t understand everything that is being said in that blog or podcast, exposure is the most important factor in learning personal finance. You will thank yourself later!


You’re going to have to use your personal phone for work

There is really no way around it. I rotate through multiple healthcare institutions – some that use pagers, some that use institution-issued smart phones, and others that use secure messaging apps… we all still end up using our personal phones for work one way or another. There are two free apps you should download and set up now, so that you’re ready on day one of residency: Google Voice and Doximity. 


Google Voice: you can get a free Google Voice phone number. Instead of giving out my personal cell phone number to every institution, I gave out my Google Voice number. Typically, your hospital will publish your phone number for other faculty and staff members to see so that if you or your team is on call they can reach you.


Doximity: this is a lifesaver! Within the Doximity app is a service called Doximity Dialer. This allows you to call, text, leave voicemails, and video chat your patients from your cell phone while displaying your hospital or clinic’s phone number as your caller ID. This is great for a couple of reasons: your personal number is hidden, and your patients will be receiving a call/text from a number they recognize instead of an unknown caller or blocked caller ID. Plus, you don’t have to be around a hospital or clinic landline. Went home to do notes and have to call your patient? No problem.


A little review will set you up for success

Before you start residency, you should casually go over some of the most common diagnoses you’ll see during your intern year. OnlineMedEd is really great resources for this. For example, brush up on the basic management of hypertension, diabetic ketoacidosis, heart failure, pneumonia, sepsis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, atrial fibrillation, and gastrointestinal bleeds. I am NOT telling you to study like you studied for boards, but reminding yourself of these basics will make day one of intern year so much better!


Burnout is for real

Medical school is tough, but residency is a completely different ball game. The long hours, lack of sleep, and high-pressure environment can take a toll on your mental and physical health. There are going to be days or weeks when you feel like you’re just getting by. Burnout is a real risk for residents, and it's important to take care of yourself to prevent it. Prioritize your mental health and seek help if you need it. Tell people if you are struggling – they can’t help if they don’t know you need help.


Make a plan now for how you’re going to prioritize your own mental and physical health. For example, make it a point to move your body at least 3-4 times per week even if that just means stretching at home or going for a short walk outside at lunch. No time to meal prep? Choose the healthiest options you can find in the cafeteria because that’s the best you can do. Making these small choices can go a long way! Self-care is not selfish, in fact, it’s necessary so that you can be the best for your patients.


Residency will be a challenging but rewarding experience. I hope these tips were helpful! You can do this, and I am so excited for you!



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