The Hundred Hour Week

During residency, there are ebbs and flows to each work week. In a typical 1 in 4 call schedule, you may find yourself working fifty to a hundred hours a week – based on a 8-10 hour workday, and 24-26 hour call shift.

A light week would be doing a call on a Wednesday or Thursday, approximately 50 hours. A moderate week would be doing Tuesday/Saturday call, roughly 75-80 hours. And finally, once a month you’ll do a Monday, Friday, Sunday call, which works out to be a hundred hours.

Similarly, when call schedules are swapped around, you sometimes end up working two weekends in a row.  This translates to physically being at the hospital for 19 days straight.

Regardless to say, my second year has been filled with lots of time in the hospital. Today, I just finished a stretch of 19 days with my last week being a hundred hour work week. The scariest part about this is I’m not even the hardest working resident. Most surgical residents I know work 100+ hours/ every week consistently.

I remember in undergrad, when I first learned of resident work hours, I thought working 80+ hours every week was very doable. I was already spending roughly the same number of hours with my classes and studying, how hard could working 80+ hours be? Now, having done this for a few years, I realize that working 80+ hours isn’t the hard part. It is certainly doable. You get used to pulling all-nighters in the emergency room. You get good at looking after patients and getting stuff done in the hospital.

But what becomes incredibly hard is balancing your life outside of work.

The amount of sleep and the quality get degenerates. You will be pressed for time to buy groceries, cook food and clean up after yourself. Your laundry piles up, emails go unanswered, parties are missed. Blog post? I’d rather sleep. You find yourself detached from the lives of the people around you, as you become more involved with your patient’s lives in the hospital.

If I could talk to my younger-self, I would tell him that residency workload is doable but be prepared and aware of the sacrifices you will make. I would tell him to treasure his time outside of his career, and to nurture healthy relationships that will last. I don’t regret going into medicine. I just wish I had more time for my life outside of medicine right now.

(Photo credit: Stevedunleavy)

And then there was One

Credit (mkrigsman)

Credit (mkrigsman)

I have good and bad news.

The good news is Lizzy (co-blogger) had a fruitful year with her medical school applications. She applied broadly, interviewed at over a dozen schools and she received acceptances at multiple medical schools. I couldn’t be happier for her!

Regrettably, with her medical career just beginning and new responsibilities and opportunities ahead, she has decided to step down from her role as a co-blogger. I am sad to see her go and wish her the best in her future endeavors. Her future is bright.

Medaholic Turns Five

Source - Flickr

Last week, this blog turned five years old. Apart from the 48 hours of downtime I had while migrating servers, there was not much fanfare – no celebration, no new theme, not even a post. Now on my first free Sunday in a month, I have a chance to reflect about it.

In many ways, this blog has been a reflection of what I have done in the last half decade. This blog and its readers have been with me through premed, medical school, clerkship rotations and residency. Through my posts, I’ve tried to share my thoughts on what being a doctor is like. I’ve written before about death, sickness and health. When I have busy rotations, I tend to post less. When I have free time, I try to grow the site. Along the way, I met many who are also on the same journey as me.

It’s been an unexpected and humbling experience. Unexpected because I didn’t think I would make it this far and do so well. Humbling because of all the support and encouragement I’ve received from readers.

For those who aren’t aware, this blog was initially called Open Source MD. The site is still up if you want to check it out. Reading through my old posts, I could tell I was naive and overly ambitious when I first started this blog. I was a new medical student trying to make my mark on the internet and change how patient care was delivered, without having ever cared for a patient yet. There is a paragraph I want to quote though because I think it still holds true.

“I hope that I can look back four years from now at these posts and still realize that I have my optimism and ideals that lead me to this profession. Through recording my memories down and reflecting on my personal growth, perhaps I will gain a better understanding of medicine.”

I can say confidently, that I do have a better understanding of medicine now. I have helped patients overcome their illnesses and I have harmed patients. I have broken bad news countless times. I have laughed with with patients, I have cried with them. What a privilege it is to care for patients.

Moving Forward

Looking back, Medaholic has gone through several phases. Initially, I wrote articles on how to get into medical school – which included posts about the MCAT, application process and interviews. As I went through medical school, I talked about medical education, note-taking, surviving clerkship and preparing yourself for residency. And currently, as I am completing residency, I am focused on work-life balance and career development.

Obviously, medaholic addresses a wide audience from high school students to residents – that’s why this year I asked Lizz to join the team. She is where I was exactly five years ago and about to embark on her own journey – I’m sure she has lots of potential and a wealth of information to share. So instead of focusing past topics – MCAT, Admissions, Interviews, Medical School – I will let Lizz take up the flame and run with it.

As for me, I’m still around and I know it’s time I start writing for myself again. I am going to write about things I’m interested in and not on topics that I’ve outgrown. I want to look back again in five years time and see how much more further I’ve gone. There are still things I will still be doing because I enjoy it such as reviewing apps, books and resources. But I also want to challenge myself with new things. I don’t want to be the blogger who writes little substance for the sake of writing. I have some projects and topics I want to write about soon.

So here’s to the next five years at medaholic, I’m looking forward to it. I hope you will too.

Writing Well Counts

Please excuse my lack of writing. I have been studying for my upcoming MCCQE Part II exam – the second part for our Canadian general medical license.

However, this time each year, I still take some time out to help friends and acquaintances with medical school applications. Although I no longer know the cutoffs and marking criteria for each medical school, I still help out by proofreading essays for clarity and content.

From the applications this year, and years past, the biggest problem I find is style. It seems that four years of science courses can make a person forget how to write sentences. What I read is often overly complicated and cluttered with cliches. It’s unfortunate because most of the content is better than the form.

Three short pointers to anyone applying this cycle (or in the future)

  1. Read your sentences out loud
  2. Edit ruthlessly
  3. Get someone else to look over your writing

Two books that I highly recommend and refer to frequently

 writingwell

Sorry for coming off as an advertising board – I just edited some horrendous essays.