Or maybe it should be 0 to 800? 1000? Infinity? It’s been a pretty wild first month of residency.
Trial by fire
Our seniors and consultants would all say that the January/omicron surge was the wildest one yet: fastest rise to peak, and with an unprecedented number of cases.
Back in 2021, having more than 5 COVID positive patients for disclosure was already a trigger for an SOS. The January surge had us seeing up to 200 patients per day for disclosure. It was crazy.
I still can’t believe we’ve made it through the other side!
*Ish. We’re still going through a serious backlog of pending medical certificates.
Here are the three (non-clinical) things I learned over January:
- Conserve your energy.
- You can’t do it alone.
- Change your perspective.
Conserve your energy. Learn to let go. For the first week of UPHS rotation, we used to stay up until 7 or 8PM in the office. Our queue for consults, disclosures, monitoring and return-to-work assessment kept rising exponentially. The remaining things to do justified the overtime. For the second week, we learned to go home early, but I’d still be charting and doing some telemonitoring tasks until 11PM. I know the others did the same. I personally felt guilty if I couldn’t hit a certain target.
But by the third week of January, I realized: the work may be limitless, but I can’t say the same for my energy. My earlier targets were impossible to meet.
As long as it’s not a literal matter of life and death, set it aside for the next day. Respect your own boundaries and others will do the same.
You can’t do it alone. Sometimes it takes a village. As a first year resident, I didn’t know what a “reasonable workload” looked like. If we asked for help, was that a sign of incompetence? If we didn’t ask for help, did we lack proper awareness? But I’m glad we had our chief resident, our acting CR, our training officer, and the many UPHS consultants. They could see the bigger picture that we could not –that a surge of that magnitude did, in fact, require more hands than just three organic residents.
From the middle of the first week onwards, it was already all hands and hearts on deck. Thank you to our senior residents (especially Dr. Ian and Dr. Ronan), our fellow first-year residents, and our consultants (especially Dr. Anuran, Dr. Engada, and Dr. MDMS!) for being easy to approach and quick to respond. And also for the occasional free coffee and food!
Change your perspective. Take it one day at a time. Every day of that first week felt like an insurmountable challenge. If I didn’t go through 36-hour duties in QMMC back in clerkship, I would have been tempted to call those days the most taxing of my medical career so far.
Nothing beats measuring waste every 4 hours.
It wasn’t anywhere near the intellectual exhaustion that came with seeing many patients or thinking too deeply about clinical cases; it was the exhaustion that came with repetitive mechanical tasks that had no beginning nor end.
But as our training officer, Dr. Babsa-ay, would say every time he’d check up on us –starting rock bottom could only mean there was nowhere to go but up. And time did prove him correct. Either we changed or the world did –probably both– but in any case the burden became easier and easier to carry.
I recognize the extreme privilege I have in having even the time to think outside of work. (Wednesdays and Sundays are my designated house and self maintenance days.)
And also the extreme privilege of having access to my mom’s card –Lazada has been my best friend. Now that I’m an Adult, I really cannot describe the amount of joy I associate with decorating and furnishing my empty apartment.
As always, the key to staying sane includes: having a routine, forgiving yourself, keeping touch with friends, and receiving gifts (both from yourself and others #treatyourself).
End of an era
January dragged on so long that calling it an “era” feels like an understatement.
Surviving first month of residency, not to mention the surge, is worth a celebration. And that’s why we (Joeric, Kata, Berty and I –we were missing Marlo) made our way for a nice dinner at La Cathedral Cafe in Intramuros.
Looking forward to our first ever dinner as a batch!
In times like these, I remember one of the most powerful words gifted to us, ASMPH batch 2021, by the rest of the Ateneo community:
“Hindi man alam ang gagawin, kung saang direksyon tutungo. Balikan ang dahilan, at laging tandaan, daig ng bakit ang paano.“
Until next time! ❤️
P.S. Writing this blog post at home is also such a privilege. First time to sleep in my own bed since that very first duty of the year.