7 residents share the advice they’d tell their younger selves

By Kristen Fuller, MD
Published July 24, 2023

Key Takeaways

Looking back, there are so many things I would have done differently as a young resident, but sometimes you can only learn through hardship and experience. When we’re first starting residency, we may receive advice from our mentors or senior-level residents, but we may not take it seriously. Maybe we don’t trust them, or our egos are too big, or perhaps we would instead prefer to figure it out for ourselves. 

Regardless, some of the advice I would like to give my younger self includes: Make time for personal relationships, spend more time outside, and try to avoid alcohol, drama, gossip, and toxic negativity. I would tell my younger self to go to therapy, exercise more, laugh, nurture my hobbies, invest in an IRA, and find a mentor.

We asked medical residents, “What advice would you give to your younger self?” Here's what they had to say.

young people eating meal cooking resident

Don’t forget to have a life outside of work 

Olivia Sutton, MD: “When people say the days are long but the years are short, that's absolutely true. It FLIES by. Don't let the important things get away from you. Take real vacations. Go out to dinner. Spend time with friends and family.”

"Don't hesitate to move your life forward."

Olivia Sutton, MD

Woman doing pushups on yoga mat exercise self-care

Prioritize self-care

Esha Hansoti, MD: “Residency is a demanding and intense period of your medical career. Remember to prioritize self-care and be kind to yourself. Take breaks when needed, engage in activities that bring you joy, and seek support from the people around you.” 

"Remember that your well-being is essential for providing quality care to your patients."

Esha Hansoti, MD

Doctors Talking iStock / Getty Images Plus

Embrace residency as a learning experience

Carla Saoud, MD: “My advice to me is to embrace the opportunity to learn and immerse myself fully in the field. Pathology is a vast and ever-evolving discipline, so approach each day with an open mind and a thirst for knowledge. Be proactive in seeking out educational resources, attending conferences, and engaging with experienced pathologists and mentors. 

“Develop strong foundational skills in gross and microscopic examination, as they form the basis of accurate diagnoses. Embrace teamwork and collaboration with your colleagues, as pathology often involves multidisciplinary interactions. Remember to maintain a healthy work-life balance and prioritize self-care, as residency can be demanding.”

"Lastly, stay curious and never hesitate to ask questions."

Carla Saoud, MD

Young man relaxing in the forest Most doctors report working too many hours, but some specialties have less leisure time than others.

Practice self-compassion

Vignesh Ramachandran, MD: “If I could give advice to my past self as a new resident, I would emphasize the importance of patience and self-compassion. The learning curve in residency, particularly in a specialty as complex and fast-paced as dermatology, is steep and can often feel overwhelming. It's crucial to remember that becoming proficient in your specialty is a gradual process; it's not about perfection, but about consistent growth and improvement.”

"Allow yourself the grace to make mistakes, to ask questions, and to take the time you need to learn and absorb new information."

Vignesh Ramachandran, MD

Other inspiring advice

  • Vasudha Kota, MD: “Find a way to have clear boundaries between work and personal life. Find ways to cope with stress, such as music, friends, shopping and cooking. Have time for yourself and don’t get stressed or overwhelmed with work.”

  • Tina Yang, DO: “Get help, talk to people you trust, continue to do the things you love; this is the only way you’ll make it through residency with a healthy mind at the end of it.”

  • Jake Jacob, MD: “I would urge my younger self to prioritize self-care from the beginning. Remember that self-care is not selfish; it is a necessary foundation for sustainable medical practice and long-term well-being.”

Parting thoughts

Residency is challenging and exhausting, but it is only temporary and offers a chance for you to learn as much as possible. Use these years to nurture your medical skills, your interpersonal relationships, and your professional life. What brings you joy? What stresses you out? What brings you sadness? Make time for what brings you joy and learn to deal with the negative stuff in a healthy way.

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!

Read Next: 8 residents discuss how their perception of medicine changed throughout residency

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