My top ten rules for success as a senior surgical resident

Fotor_146564969129591. Be available – You chose to be a surgeon and there are a lot of responsibilities that go with the profession and one of them is availability. Whether it’s to your patients, your junior residents, your attending, nurses, colleagues in other specialties; be available. Don’t be the senior or chief that junior residents dread to call when they have a problem with a patient. You are the team leader, you are responsible for everything that happens on your watch. Which leads to #2.

2. Be accountable – Take accountability of your team. If something goes wrong as they sometimes will, do not throw your team members under the bus or blame your juniors. It’s your team, if something is not done right it’s on you and you have to figure out where the problem is and fix it. Be the kind of leader that inspires your team to always put in their best.

3. Be thorough….always– Nothing good can ever come out of cutting corners. Always be thorough. I know often times we emphasize speed, but there are ways to be efficient and still cover everything. Most of the time you will have your diagnosis from a thorough history and physical, your tests should just be confirmatory for the most part.

4. Listen to your patients and families – Your patients have been in those bodies for years and for pediatric patients their parents have been with them since birth. They know when something is wrong, take the time to listen to them.

5. Be professional with other departments – For a long time in residency our department had a reputation of not playing nicely with other departments in the sand box. It’s not safe for patients and it’s not good for everyone involved. Learn to work well with others. Even if you get what you think is a stupid consult, remember you are the expert in that field and they are asking your expert opinion. See the patient and leave your recommendations, at the end of the day it’s not about you, it’s about the patient.

6. Read daily – Be as knowledgeable as you can be. It’s a gift to your patients and before you know it, it will be time to write boards and you won’t have to stress out so much if you have been studying daily all along.

Two surgeons looking down, and concentrating at the operating table

7. Thoroughly prepare for every case– must have: trusted surgical atlas, operative anatomy and great videos. Always be prepared. If you are not doing the case yet, you learn best by being a great assistant.

8. Change in condition warrants a visit– When a patient’s condition changes, either go and see the patient yourself or if you are unable (operating or in trauma) send someone to go and see the patient. I often used M&M as my litmus test–> if I have to defend my actions in M&M will I have a leg to stand on?!

9. Be nice, be pleasant, go above and beyond for others – You will realize that humans are very good at reciprocating. If you go out of your way to help people, they will do the same for you. Whether its nursing staff or staff in radiology or even your junior residents. People are more productive when they have a good working environment and a good boss!

10. Double check everything – This doesn’t mean that you don’t trust your colleagues, but you are each other’s check system. Look at your own films, you will pick up things that the radiologist has missed sometimes, do your own focused history and physical exam, double check orders, results, consultant notes. You are a surgeon, know your patients inside and out!

Just my top ten rules to succeeding as a surgical senior resident. Remember, they can hurt you but they can not stop the clock:) Surgical residency will be done before you know it! Hang in there.

One thought on “My top ten rules for success as a senior surgical resident

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  1. Dr. Praise,

    Your story and journey are absolutely incredible, and you are a significant inspiration to me.
    I am almost 30, and have thought of becoming a doctor my entire life. I have a few questions for you, and was wondering if you would offer me some advice on the following topics:

    I’m in my late 20s and single, and am worried I will never find love or have a family if I pursue medicine. I know you’ve found love along the way, and was wondering if you have any advice about overcoming the anxiety of my fear of never getting married and having a family in order to balance with my professional dreams.

    Second, I know I am smart and a good student but I see the workload of friends I have who are currently in medical school/residency and feel overwhelmed: it all seems so impossible, and I have serious self doubt about whether or not I am disciplined enough, brilliant enough, and might truly be cut out for this field. How did you balance your workload with such a demanding field? How have you maximized your hours in the day and what are your study tips for academic success? To me, being a good student is much more than Step 1 scores but about how patients deserve the best of us, and deserve physicians who know their stuff.

    Lastly, how you do keep plugging along despite exhaustion? I am balancing classes with a full time job and I am tired all of the time. I try not to cut corners despite the exhaustion, but I am finding it so difficult sometimes to keep going and to think critically when my body and brain are so sleepy. I know transplantation is a field where sleep is, well, a minimum, and was wondering how you keep your mind sharp despite chronic and severe sleep deprivation.

    Thank you for sharing your incredible story, and for being an incredible role model for girls to do hard things, and save lives. I am so glad to have read your story and wish so many blessings and successes upon you!


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