This year, for the first time ever, medical schools nationwide welcomed a class of students that is majority female. In fact, there are some medical schools that are comprised of 60% women in their first year class. While the field of medicine is difficult, women in medicine face a unique set of challenges. As new interns started in July, we asked our Women in White Coats what advice they have for new residents as they begin their journey into medicine.
Residency is hard. You just have to breathe and take one step at a time. You are not expected to know all the answers but you are expected to know what you don’t know. So, ask questions – as many as you have. You can ask the nurses, the pharmacist, your senior residents, and your attendings. Remember, someone is trusting you with their life, so give your best and keep reading!
— Kena Shah, DO, Allergy/Immunology/Author (IG @docmcshah)
You will make mistakes and you may not know all the answers! Overcome this, learn from your errors, and strive to be better than you were yesterday.
—Peaesha Houston, MD, Family Medicine/Author
Don’t feel guilty: a 30 min walk, gym session, yoga class, manicure, coffee with a friend, etc. can make all the difference for maintaining you own well-being.
— Danielle Lombardi, DDS, Pediatric Dentistry/Author: (IG @doctor.lombardi)
If you speak a second language, barter your translation services by trading some of the scut work.
— Barbara Garcia, MD, Family Medicine
Listen to the nursing staff. Many of them have lots of years of experience in their care area. They also spend more time with patients than you do and may notice things that are helpful for the care of the patient. Stay hungry and humble. Take advantage of every learning opportunity as the learning curve during the intern year is steep and the knowledge infusion is like drinking from a fire hydrant. Finally, you can do this!
— Charmaine Gregory, MD, Emergency Medicine/Author (IG @ffwcharmaine)
Sleep when you can and eat when you can. You don’t know anything and that’s ok. Be humble and read a lot.
— Yulia Johnson, MD, Family Medicine/Author
Never eat anything from a vending machine! Call your parents weekly. Don’t take bitchy attendings too seriously. Get sleep. Make friends with your fellow residents!
— Karla F. Loken, DO, OB/Gyn
Find a mentor as soon as possible and never be shy to ask for help. Utilize that mentor to help you make tough decisions throughout the year. At times, you have to be your own advocate and know when to say no. Lastly, your co-residents are your support system. Do not treat them like competition because it shows.
— Rimmy Mekonnen, Nephrology Pharmacy Resident PGY-2
Have a child during residency, do not wait if you are ready. Yes, it will be difficult, but taking time off from residency for pregnancy/maternity leave is sometimes easier than when you first start your practice. Negotiate paid parental leave into your contract when you get your job in the future.
— Rikka Mohorn, MD, General Surgery
Don’t be afraid to ask questions from the nursing staff, your colleagues or your attendings. Be sure to check your own pulse first -you feel that right – it’s your heart working and it can remind you of your purpose. Be sure to read read read and read some more. Always get a full HPI; for example if your patient has leukemia and is there for only for a fever workup be sure to always ask what their presenting complaints were when they were diagnosed. It should scare you and remind you to take simple complaints more seriously. Each day is a learning experience. Remember you are blessed to be able to do this. If you’re on time; you’re late. The minutes go by slow, but the years go by fast. Your fellow interns will be some of the best people you will ever meet and the closest friends you will ever have.
— Maria Perez-Johnson, MD, Pediatric Emergency Medicine/Author (IG @mperezjohnson)
Take one day at a time. If you can’t take one day, then take one hour at a time. If you can’t take one hour, then take one minute at a time. If you can’t take a minute, take one second at a time. The goal is to just keep going! The end is near!
— Amber Robins, MD, Family Medicine/Author (IG @dramberrobins)
This too shall pass. But in the meantime be sure to make time for yourself by exercising, drinking plenty of water, eating lots of fruits and veggies and having friends or family to lean on. If you are on a rotation where you can’t find time to work out, take the stairs as much as possible and do sit-ups and push-ups in your call room when you have a few minutes. Try to meditate for 5 minutes a day and also do yoga once a week. This will help keep you balanced! Also remember, you have everything you need inside you to succeed. Now is the time to step up, rise to the occasion and become the doctor you always dreamed of being.
–Archana Shrestha, MD, Emergency Medicine/Author: (IG @mightymommd)
Don’t be a cowboy…always ask. There are no dumb questions. Don’t assume you know it all, because you don’t. Medicine is a truly collaborative career–lifelong learning. Patient safety first!
–Natasha K. Sriraman, MD, Academic Pediatrics/Author (IG @Natasha.Mom.MD)
You’ve gotten in, that’s a blessing, now do what you need to do to get out! So don’t curse your blessing because it will be tough.
— Dionne Ross, MD, Pediatrics
To learn more about what it is like to be a woman doctor, please check out our book “The Chronicles of Women in White Coats” and read about the journeys of female doctors, while experiencing their challenges, joys and frustrations along the way.