Residency is tough. I read posts from those of you still in the trenches and I can remember how overwhelmed I felt. The schedule doesn’t allow adequate time for self or family. Halfway through my intern year, our staff psychologist did a resident assessment and I remember writing that, while I was doing alright for now, the current level of activity was unsustainable in the long term.
To make matters worse, several of our attendings would often say helpful things like, “If you think this schedule is hard, wait until you’re an attending – it’s much worse. AND there are no duty hour restrictions!” I know I was not the only one wondering if the rest of my life was even going to be bearable.
Well, I have good news for all of you. I have seen the future, and it is beautiful.
The first year and a half that I was an attending, I literally felt like I was on vacation. I didn’t have to come in until 9 a.m.! Five p.m. often meant I was leaving the office! What, I’m off this weekend AGAIN?! Also, I have time to work out, time to sleep, time to work on hobbies!
It’s true there are no duty hour restrictions for attendings, and every once in a while it’s an issue. If I do a delivery at night, I still have to go to the office all the next day. Some days are quite long, as I do take extra time to do the odd home visit, see some nursing home patients, and call patients personally with unexpected lab results. I take my own call during the week, and do my own deliveries unless I'm out of town.
The first weekend of call for our practice was fairly awful – in early to evaluate a sick patient, then rounding until afternoon, followed by pages every 15 minutes that made it impossible to catch a nap. I remember thinking, “I can’t survive three days with no sleep!” But the thing is, it’s always very temporary. There is always a day off in my very near future. I know I can catch up on sleep before I really develop a deficit.
I know every field is different, and there are docs around here that work every day until 8 p.m. However, medicine has a lot of choices and I believe that if you try (and make it a priority) you can make some family-friendly ones.