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Reflecting on residency, one year in

A resident in emergency medicine looks back upon all that has changed, and all that he has learned, over the last year.

It’s been about twelve months since the day when years of hard work, lengthy board exams, and countless interviews last culminated in a national letter opening ceremony: Match Day. It's a celebration during which thousands of eager medical students around the country discover where they'll be continuing their training as resident physicians.

I was one of those students, and now as Match Day approaches once more, I can’t help but look back at how things have changed since I began my training in emergency medicine.

The first thing that comes to mind is family: I’ve got a new one. Intern year can be disorienting. Shortly after uprooting our lives and half-settling into our new homes, we undergo a brief orientation, slap on badges with MD or DO printed in ink that feels all too fresh, and dive head first into caring for the ill – and they don’t take it easy on us because we’re new.

After months of vacation, interviews, and minimal clinical work this can be akin to leaping from couch to 26.2 miles. And this is where they come in – that new family you’ve just become a part of. The senior residents that recently stepped out of the shoes we've now stumbled into, the attendings that tirelessly push us to excel and grow, the nurses that keep a watchful eye on our patients, and the pharmacists that ensure our orders are accurate. They’re our family and your friends, and they’ll get us across the finish line at the end of intern year.

With that support system also comes a trait we must quickly embrace and cultivate: confidence. Like a trapeze artist above a safety net, this is the time for us to take risks and try new things. We need to develop broad differentials, synthesize our own treatment plans, and believe in the knowledge we've acquired and had tested time and time again over recent years.

This first year, more than ever in our residency training, is when we have the greatest ratio of support to responsibility. Attendings pay closer attention to presentations and thoroughly examine our orders, senior residents guide us through difficult procedures, and there’s a bit more leeway in regard to the pace at which we operate. The most important thing I’ve realized, though, is to never grow too comfortable and reliant on that net. One day soon we'll need to operate without it.

It’s been a year since Match Day. I’ve moved to a new city, made new friends and family, and donned a longer white coat. I’ve grown from a medical student who was once nervous ordering Ibuprofen to approaching the end of intern year more confident and eager to continue developing on this foundation I’ve built.

For all those matching this year, congratulations on making it to the next step in your career. We all have a long way to go, no doubt. Fortunately, no journey is too challenging when we’re driven by compassion, purpose, and a dedication to serving those in need. Hold on to that which has gotten you this far, and let it carry you through to the end.

Onur Yenigun, MD, is a resident in Stanford's Department of Emergency Medicine.

Photo courtesy of Onur Yenigun

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