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How to Survive Your First Year of Residency

Tips For Surviving the First Year of Medical Residency

On the First Year of Residency

After four years of classes, conferences, and residency applications, you have finally earned the right to practice medicine! Your first year of residency will be filled with new experiences, patients, and professionals who will help you become a general practitioner. Unfortunately, your first year of residency will also be filled with challenges that can distract you from your ultimate goal. If you are adjusting to life as an intern, this guide can help you survive your first year as a medical resident.

Get Excited

This is what you wanted, right? Take a moment to appreciate how far you’ve already come. This is what those four years in medical school were building up to.  Throughout residency, you will be tested day in and day out, but it’s important to remember why you’re here in the first place.


The last thing a sick patient wants to see is your irritated face—even if you had to get up at 5 a.m., or you’re drowning in extra work—when all they really want is to feel better. Plus, the nurses will be less likely to throw out your coffee.

Start On The Right Foot

As you transition from medical school into your residency program, make sure that you start your internship on the right foot. Introduce yourself to hospital staff and medical professionals on your first day, and connect with the other interns in your program.

This is also a great time to start doing research about your profession. Get to know doctors who practice medicine in your area of specialty, and take the time to read books about the medical field. Above all, remember that your first year as a resident is designed to help you develop the skills you need to become an amazing doctor.

Build A Support Network

As a medical resident, you will be part of a large community of doctors, nurses, and other interns. These professionals will help you grow as a resident and have a huge impact on your success as a physician.

When you’re putting in long hours and your work becomes more important than your social life, you may be tempted to put those relationships on the back-burner. But the people who help you treat patients can also make your residency a fun and exciting experience.

Develop relationships with the medical professionals that you see every day. Look for mentors who can guide you through the process of becoming a general physician, and build friendships with interns who practice in your area of specialty. Spend time with the nurses and volunteers in your department, and get to know their names as you make your rounds. Those relationships will keep you motivated when your workload is overwhelming, and they will continue to serve you as you move forward with your medical career.


As doctors, we love to talk. Well, maybe not if you’re a surgeon or a pathologist. But for those of who do like the spoken word, talking is great. Listening is better. Your patients will provide you with valuable information if you just listen. Plus, many of them have unique stories to tell—as do your colleagues and your support staff. We all come from different walks of life, and sharing your experiences will not only help you work better together, it will make those long hours in the hospital a little more enjoyable.

Lean On Each Other

It’s okay to struggle. You’re not the only one. And when it gets too much to handle, there is help available. Chief residents and program directors always have an open door policy. If you don’t feel comfortable talking with someone you know, every hospital has a counseling office for employees, which you should feel free to use. No one is meant to do this alone.

Take Care Of Yourself

With long shifts, demanding patients, and a steep learning curve, your first year as a medical resident can have disastrous effects on your health and emotional wellbeing. You may not have the same amount of free time that you had in medical school, but you can still make time to take care of yourself.

Instead of planning for long weekends and extended vacations, learn how to relax when you have spare time. Sleep whenever you can, and take the time to eat healthy meals that will give you the energy to power through your shifts. Enjoy simple pleasures like watching a movie or having lunch with friends on your days off, and be kind to yourself when you make a mistake or forget to fulfill a requirement. If you make your health and wellbeing your number one priority, you will be able to handle whatever comes your way.

Be Prepared

When you were a medical student, knowing your patient’s symptoms, what their Creatinine was or how they sounded on exam was usually enough to impress your residents and attending. Now, it really matters, because knowing whether or not your patient has acute kidney injury (AKI) could easily become a life-or-death situation.

Ask Questions

Remember, this is about your education too. How else are you going to expand your knowledge base? Yes, dumb questions do exist. But there is no such thing as a useless question. And , that “dumb” question you just asked? All 20 of your co-interns were wondering the exact same thing. Some of the residents, too.

Launch Your Career

Your residency program is the last formal training requirement that you have before you become a general practitioner. The doctors, nurses, and healthcare administrators that you work with are committed to helping you succeed as a medical resident so that you can become an attending physician.

The first year of residency can be a grueling experience. You may feel unqualified after the first few weeks of your residency program, but the challenges and setbacks that you face as an intern are designed to help you grow as a medical professional.

Use these experiences to help you launch your medical career. Ask questions about specialties, treatments, and medical cases that you are not familiar with, and build relationships with the attending physicians that you work with on a daily basis. You were hired as a resident so that you could gain the experience you need to practice medicine, and your supervisors would be more than happy to answer any questions that you have.

Read Something Every Day

This is probably going to be the hardest part of your job. After working for 12 hours, who wants to open a book, much less lift their own pinky finger? The only thing you think about is whether to eat or sleep or do both. I get it. Nobody asking you to open up Harrison’s and read a chapter every night. Read for 15 minutes a day and you’ll do fine. It’s true. Spend fifteen minutes on UpToDate or Washington Manual reading up on the conditions you dealt with during the day. You’ll become a better clinician.

Budget Yourself

Internship and residency is a time where you learn a lot about yourself and how you operate. Your intern year is going to be demanding, so why not make it easier on yourself? If you know you’re a little slower in the mornings, set your alarm a half-hour earlier.

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