I'm still figuring out this residency thing and I am by no means an all-star at surgery... but a med student asked me the other day how to be a successful resident after they are accepted through CaRMS to surgery and this is the best answer I could come up with...
How to be a Successful Resident in 4 Simple Steps
1. All for one, one for all. You will never make it across the finish line if you don't do it as a team. The team is everything, it has to come first. Be altruistic, help out whenever you can. Show kindness. Use your strengths and know your weaknesses. Learn to ask for and accept help when it's your turn. Geese don't fly south by always being in the same position within the V. They take turns being the lead and then enjoying the draft. You're all on the same journey, get there together.
2. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude.
Remember all those friends of yours who applied to med school but didn't get in? Look around you during your interviews, the person on either side of you may not get a spot in surgery. Be humble. You carry the burden of responsibility to make up for their missed opportunities. Don't take that lightly.
Also, be grateful for hardship. Laundry doesn't become clean by lying around on the bed. It has to be put in hot water, tumbled around, spun down, and hung out to dry. The attendings who are the hardest on you are the ones who will make you better. Compliments, while nice, rarely improve you. Criticism, while uncomfortable, can transform you- provided that you are open to it. So be grateful for hardship. Lean into the discomfort, not away. In the face of reprimand and disappointed expectations, let the first words through you lips be "thank you"-- thank you for correcting me, thank you for taking the time to teach me, thank you for seeing my potential and wanting me to succeed.
3. Residency is, simply put, an endurance test. Starting PGY 1 on July 1st is like getting out of bed and deciding that today you're going to start walking across Canada. You have 5 years to get to the other side. Some days will be stormy and it will take every particle of your efforts just to cover a minimum of ground. Some days, you'll have a tailwind and the distance will fly by. Every day is another chance to recommit yourself to the journey. Repeat your affirmations. Reflect on the distance you've come. Look ahead and resist the urge to be overwhelmed by the mountains in the distance. Take every day on its own, one step at a time.
4. Acknowledge the privilege you have in hearing patient's most intimate details of their lives, in knowing their bodies in a way their mothers and fathers / husbands and wives will never know, and be humbled by the trust they put in you to guide them on their journey. There is no room for ego here. Treat every patient like they are your mother. Cut away their disease meticulously. Sew them back together tenderly. Attend them on the ward postoperatively in order to rejoice in their healing and grieve in their set backs. They are the heart of what you do. Never forget that.