Friday, January 13, 2012

8 Things to Know About Resident Physicians

My old roommate wrote this and posted it on her facebook, and it's too good not to share... So here you go, enjoy:

Yesterday, my friend sent me this blasphemously hilarious article called, “5 Things to know before dating a scientist.”  Not to be outdone, I decided to write this 8-item blog because studying for Step 3 is boring and let’s face it, dating a resident physician is terrible.

1. Page us if you really want our attention.
It is frankly rude for us as residents (aka underlings) to pull out our cell phones 90% of the time we are at the hospital.  We are either presenting a patient on rounds, sitting in a lecture, or pretending to listen to a patient.  Please understand that we are in a service industry and a learning environment that takes no text breaks, snack breaks, pee breaks, or lunch breaks.  Very often, textswill not be checked or replied to in a timely fashion.   So if you must communicate a dire need / clarify a dinner plan to us… please page us.
It is much easier to read a page at the hospital because it appears to be work-related!  Many of us have mastered the “I am communicating important patient information to another colleague” look while we are paging other resident physicians emoticons and pages about where to get free food.  Most likely, our response time will be much better on the pager because while we are not a slave to you or our phones, the pager is our ball-and-chain.  However, if you get an automatic response, such as “Yes/OK, Thank you, or In 15 minutes,” then just know we are supremely busy and we apologize for the curtness.  So don’t take it personally.

The caveat is that some resident physicians do not like using their pagers for non-hospital communication.  So just ask yours if you should page / text / call them.

2. We love sleep.

We adore it, worship it, love it, and crave it.  All the time.  Since our second year of medical school, we have had a yearning for it.  It is precious to us.  When you’ve been up 34 hours straight and have half-slept on a hospital cot clutching a pager, you will understand our love for our beds.  I’ve heard of residents sleeping on the kitchen mat before their kitchen sinks while doing their dishes, residents sleeping through their friends’ weddings, and residents falling asleep talking to their significant others—you.   Sorry.

If we have the chance to be uninteractive for more than 10 minutes, then we will invariably close our eyes and drift into REM sleep.  What we want is uninterrupted, un-anxious, fulfilling, undeprived sleep.  Most of the sleep we accumulated in medical school was drunken hangover sleep and dreaming of test material, and most of the sleep we experience now is with a dysfunctional circadian rhythm.

So please do not wake us up early on days we can sleep in.   Most of us only get sick during residency because we do not sleep enough.   An early 6:00 am morning walk on the beach to see the sunrise is akin to a non-urgent page at 4:30am— tolerable, but annoying.

3. We love to ask questions.  Please ask us questions too!

Most of us resident physicians have been learners for 20+ years, heck, some of us even have PhDs and Masters degrees.  We have evolved to learn, memorize, analyze, and think critically extremely quickly.   If it is rude to you that we whip out our cell phones to wikipedia every building or foreign food or new drug being advertised, consider us sorry—but not really.  Our jobs require us to keep on learning, so it is only natural we apply the inquisitive approach to whatever seems interesting to us. 

Our brains were beaten to a pulp to learn each minute, relevant and irrelevant detail so that we could somehow catalogue those tidbits into a useful, accessible database.    As a consequence, if you say something remotely fascinating, please don’t be offended by our follow-up interrogating.  It is our way of interactive learning.  Blame Socrates.

So, broaden our horizons by teaching us something.   And ask us if you don’t understand an acronym or the jargon we’ve just spewed out.  We generally like teaching you too.

4. Don’t ever lie to us. 

Been anxious? Not sticking to your diet plan?  Didn’t really like the dress?  In pain?  Don’t really know the directions?  We can usually tell.   It’s a good thing though, because we would do anything to help ya.  But if you have an ulterior motive—don’t think I’m a naive nerd who made it this far by studying.

Our job as physicians is to find the truth in the patient’s history, symptoms, lab results, and imaging.  We love to believe you, but if what you says seems fishy, we will inadvertently turn to objective data to corroborate your story.

We see enough pathologic liars at work.  Believe me, you don’t want to be lumped in with the pain-med seeker who has 10/10 headaches and can still sleep soundly in the ED, yell at the triage nurses, and eat a full meal while sitting under bright fluorescent lights.

5. We are not medication or medical imaging vending machines.

Please tell us if you aren’t feeling well.  Feel free to refer your family/friends to us for an informal conversation re: their low back pain or new rash.  Let us know if you have been in an ER waiting room for hours.  We want to help you, but generally, we cannot give you stuff other than medical advice that is better than WebMD.  If we can help you, we will offer to.

In addition, it is unethical for us to prescribe your mother’s Xanax and impossible for us to give you a free MRI.  In addition, we as physicians are taught to never treat who we're dating and to never date who we're treating.  It is an ethical issue.

6. Color us cynical, but we still have feelings.

The things we hear, the diseases we see, the people we touch, the emotional burden we bear, the hours we work, and the medical responsibility we have—those are things you will never experience.  So please don’t say you understand how difficult my job is or how my patient feels.

The painful, ugly, humiliating, and private things that make you gasp on TV, we’ve probably seen ten of them in living color and had to touch them.

Most of us have healthily coped with the stresses and situations by becoming a bit cynical and numb.  If we cried for every cancer patient, if we felt sorry for every drug abuser and homeless man, if we were mad for every hour we worked “overtime,” we would be so emotionally spent that we could not function as a person.

But still, every resident still has feelings that the day to day coping mechanisms cannot compensate for.  For me, when I hit rock rock bottom, I just need to spend lots ofalone time with my dog on my bed. Find out your MD/ DO's means of escape from the hospital and make sure you R-E-S-P-E-C-T it.
Thank you.

7. Non- hospital food and coffee is ALWAYS superior to hospital food and coffee.
We would love some—homecooked, deli, leftovers from a restaurant.  Anything.  Anytime. Anywhere.  You can totally make our day with a Chipotle burrito or a morning donut/ coffee.  When we sip that Starbucks coffee cup at work, it is a pleasant reminder to us that we are still somewhat normal human beings in touch with the outside world.  Life becomes very lame when all of your fluid intake/output is at the hospital.  Remember, jellos and saltine crackers are not dinner.

8. VERY IMPORTANT: Don't ever complain about your work hours and your salary.  We have it worse.
But if we complain to much, please kindly remind us that it was way worse 30 years ago. 

(Thanks Eileen! This is awesome!)


  1. This was perfect! My boyfriend is now in his 4th year, and this was a great resource even for me. Thanks for the reminders but I will say that some of us can relate, especially if we are also in the helping profession in a hospital setting.

  2. great and hillarious.. i ask permission to share (w credit surely)..thankyou :)