I couldn’t tell you how many times I called my mom on the phone during my first year of residency, trying to convince her I was not cut out for this. “I am not good enough, I am not smart enough, I am exhausted, and I don’t even know what day it is,” I would tell her.
But she always told me, “This is supposed to be hard, and although it is hard to imagine now, there is an end in sight.” Residency is demanding physically and emotionally, and it is crucial to have a solid support system.
Sometimes your support system is your therapist or your spouse. Sometimes it is made of people who can run errands and do housework for you so you can recover from a long week of work. I believe that part of surviving and enjoying residency is choosing a support system that best suits your needs.
We asked residents, “Who were your biggest supporters during residency, and why?” Here's what they had to say.
A shoulder to lean on
Vignesh Ramachandran, MD: “My biggest supporter during my residency has been my girlfriend. She has been a constant source of encouragement and understanding, providing a shoulder to lean on through the highs and lows of this challenging period in my life.
“Whether it's celebrating my successes or comforting me during my struggles, she's always been there for me, providing the emotional support that has been instrumental in helping me navigate the stresses of residency. Beyond her unwavering emotional support, she inspires me to see the bigger picture. Amid long hours, challenging cases, and the rapid pace of learning, it can be easy to lose sight of why I chose this path.”
"In essence, her support has been about helping me cope with the demands of residency and keeping me connected to the core reasons why I chose this profession."
— Vignesh Ramachandran, MD
Someone who helps alleviate stress
Vasudha Kota, MD: “My husband is my stress buster after a busy day at work.”
"I share my frustration and pain with him, and he helps me get out of my funk."
— Vasudha Kota, MD
Leaning on family
Carla Saoud, MD: “Family support during residency is invaluable and crucial in maintaining a resident's well-being and success. Residency is physically and emotionally demanding, and having a strong support system can make a significant difference.
“My family members provide a listening ear, offer encouragement, and understand the challenges of the demanding schedule and workload. They help alleviate stress by assisting with household chores, childcare responsibilities, or simply being there to provide emotional support.”
"The understanding and love of my family members becomes a source of motivation and resilience, helping me navigate the highs and lows of the training journey."
— Carla Saoud, MD
Colleagues who understand
Jake Jacob, MD: “The camaraderie and support from my fellow residents were invaluable. We forged a bond through shared experiences, late-night discussions, and a mutual understanding of our challenges. Together, we navigated the highs and lows of residency, providing a network of support, collaboration, and friendship.”
"The shared laughter, empathy, and moments of shared vulnerability created an environment that helped us overcome obstacles and grow personally and professionally."
— Jake Jacob, MD
Others who offer support
Tina Yang, DO: “My co-residents and family and friends from home are my biggest supporters. I always have someone to turn to. Residency is hard, but having people to lean on is key.”
Vasudha Kota, MD: “My husband is my stress buster after a busy day at work. I share my frustration and pain with him, and he helps me get out of my funk.”
Nikhila G, MD: “Parents and family. My parents know me and constantly encourage me, as they know my true capabilities, even under insurmountable stress.”
Esha Hansoti, MD: “My partner has been my biggest support during residency. He is also a resident and can understand my experience.”
Olivia Sutton, MD: “My husband has become the cook, the house cleaner, the cat caretaker, the driver, and every other role in the house. Not to mention, the breadwinner by a mile given my residency salary.”
Your support system in residency is paramount to your mental and emotional health; however, you must foster these relationships. Whether your biggest supporters are your parents, spouse, siblings, best friends, or co-workers (or your housekeeper, nanny, or therapist), choosing a support system that benefits your needs and wants while expressing your gratitude and love toward these individuals is essential.
Choose your support system wisely, lean into them, express gratitude, and pay it back when you can.
Every medical resident has a question to ask and a story to tell—a comical moment, a prickly patient encounter, or a hack for staying sane during residency. We survey medical trainees for their best questions and answers and bring them to you in this column. Engaging, enlightening, and entertaining—from resident to resident!