CaRMS Tour – Finding the Right Fit

http://www.flickr.com/photos/caribb/3896931071/To all the final year medical students around the country, I wish you all safe travels and great memories during your residency interview tour.

Recently, I was talking to a few students who were going through the process. There is always a lot of stress and anxiety involved – What should I wear? Will the interviewer like me? Will I match at all?? I was nervous before my interviews too.

Looking back, I was fortunate I found the whole process quite stress free and dare I say fun. It was the perfect chance to see cities all across Canada, think about how far I had come and ponder about where I would end up.

There is one thing I wanted to share from my experience, it’s that “The CaRMS tour is as much interviewing programs and finding the right fit for you, as it is the other way around.

People are often so worried about schools liking them that they don’t take the opportunity to find out which schools they like. An activity that helped was after each interview, I would take 10 minutes to write down what I thought about each program. Some questions I would answer were

  • What did I think about the city? Could I be happy living here?
  • What do I like about this program, what impressed me the most?
  • What did I not like about this program, what there anything that concerned me?
  • What was my impression of the residents, the program director?
  • Will matching here be the best for my career goals? Personal life?
  • How would important people in my life react to me matching here?
  • Could I see myself living here long term? Would it just be for residency?

This simple exercise was very powerful in two ways. The first was it actually made each subsequent interview easier. With each reflection, my interview answers were more articulated and sincere. I could better compare the program I was interviewing for with the ones I had already done, and I believe I was a better applicant for it.

Secondly, it made ranking the different programs much easier. Ranking your programs is perhaps the last stressful milestone in medical school. If you are not prepared for it, it can be overwhelming. But if you take the time to critically evaluate the schools when you visit them and create a general impression, you will have a pretty good rank list at the end of your interviews.

So to everyone currently going through the residency match process – enjoy the process. Keep in mind that these interviews run both ways, and you have the responsibility of interviewing each program too.

Not a Time to Reflect

I’ve been busy the last few months on service heavy rotations. The workdays run long, call nights are hectic and post-call days are spent mostly sleeping. One difference between residency and medical school is the lack of breaks between different rotations. During medical school, your rotations often would switch from busy ones such as internal medicine/general surgery/obsgyn to relatively more relaxed ones like family/psych/emerg. In residency, the daily work soon becomes an endurance marathon.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had much time to reflect on my experiences over the last few months and won’t even have much time during this break. We get a total of 5 days off before we are expected to be back on service post Christmas. After that, it’ll be 1 in 2 call until the hospitals are fully staffed in the new year.

This blog has fallen to a back burner on my priorities unfortunately. Many times I have wanted to write some great posts – advice I would have given my former medical school self in different years, review of the new resources I use now (apps, websites, books), and interesting thoughts about medicine in general. Alas, there hasn’t been any free time to do so.

Hopefully, over the next five days – my first real break since the summer – I’ll have a chance to catch up on some reading and writing. Your time in residency goes by so quickly that you don’t really give much thought ti how crazy it really is. From lessons learned everyday at the bedside to finding satisfaction with the work you do everyday, residency is when you truly learn how to be a doctor.

Finally, I just wanted to thank all the visitors and readers who visit, supporters who follow, this blog wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for you. Wishing everyone a safe and festive holiday season and a happy new year!

Becoming a Craftsman

I just finished watching this inspiring documentary named Jiro Dreams of Sushi recommended by Daniel Pink. It documents master chef Jiro’s obsession with sushi and how he often makes sushi even in his dreams.

Relating back to residency, the last four months have been a tremendous period of growth for me. In many ways, I too am honing my craft of being a doctor in the next few years. Each day, I am improving my history and physical examination skills. I am learning how to better diagnose and treat diseases. Ultimately and hopefully, I’m providing better care for my patients.

My recent review on Cal Newport’s book “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” reiterates this idea that finding success is related to becoming really good at something.  Especially in hospitals where multiple parties are needed to deliver quality healthy care, I am seeing how valuable it is to have a specific set of skills to bring to the table. As a specialist who can offer a procedure or as a generalist who can coordinate complicated care, becoming the best at what you do matters.

So if you have 80 minutes to spare, I highly recommend this excellent documentary. I watched the whole thing free on youtube (watch it before they take it down!). It definitely inspired me to aspire to be a better doctor, to continue reading around my cases and think about how I can care for patients better.

Tales From the Call Room – The Pager

On those rare call nights when things are quiet on the wards, I often find it hard to sleep soundly. The reason is because there is a big elephant in the room – the pager.

The pager is your electronic leash. You learn to hate the pager and you learn to rely on it. Every time it rings I feel the urge to throw it out the window and smash it into a million pieces. Yet at the same time, I’m deathly terrified of missing an important page. If a patient becomes sick or there’s a consult that needs to be seen in the emergency room, the pager – and now more often your smartphone – is often the only way people can reach you.

Even though I’m not a deep sleeper, I still worry that I’ll miss an important page. As a result, I sleep with the pager beside my pillow. My cellphone is also tucked underneath my pillow. It’s very unsettling. It’s the equivalent of sleeping with a time-bomb that can and will go off at any moment. I also sleep with the light on so I don’t fumble around in the dark when the darned thing does go off. In general, I don’t sleep too well in the call room.

I know I’m not the only one that feels this way. One co-resident is such a deep sleeper, she has resorted to using a headband to strap the pager to her forehead so she won’t her pages. I’ve shared similar stories with other residents that when their pager hasn’t beeped in hours, they might send themselves a test page to make sure the thing isn’t broken.

Surely pager paranoia should be be in the DSM-V. It would be a mix of Post traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety and depression. Am I the only paranoid one here? Or does anyone feel the same way about their stupid pager?