We hear the term “resiliency” being thrown around a lot, especially in medicine. It means overcoming difficulties and spring back into control. Medical schools and residency programs look for applicants that are “resilient” – but what does that actually look like?
As school and work go on, life happens. Whether it is a death in the family, an academic difficulty, an illness, or the end of a relationship, medicine does not wait for you to pick up the pieces. It can be difficult to pick up the pieces of your life while trying to do what’s best for your patients. That can take a toll on the system. It’s no wonder we see burnout.
In the grand scheme of things, resiliency is something that can be learned and should be catered to you – the individual. One person’s method of coping does negate the value of another’s. In fact, there are a variety of strategies that can encourage you to be flexible in the face of adversity.
1) Find pursuits outside of medicine and healthcare. If you enjoy tailgating at football games, don’t give that up on your days off. If baking is your vice, do it in full force. Yes, we have to study all the time. But the key to retaining information effectively is to take breaks when needed – breaks that may not have anything to do with what you’re studying. The best healthcare providers are the ones that are multifaceted.
2) Tune out the noise. We’ve all heard of “gunners” – students who emphasize their accomplishments and try to find ways to outdo their classmates. Remember the real reason you went into medicine? It was because YOU wanted to, not anybody else. Don’t listen to talk about anybody else’s test grades or USMLE study strategies. Find what works for you. You are ultimately in charge of how you perform. Your path is unique and it doesn’t matter how long it takes.
3) Ask for help. The worst thing you can do if you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed is to suppress those feelings and try to keep going about your day as if nothing is wrong. Complain to your friends or siblings. Talk to a therapist. Explain your stressors to your tutor or your advisor. It is not weak to seek assistance or to vent about your circumstances. We are only human.
4) Eat and sleep. Yes, that means eat three meals a day and try to get 7-8 hours of sleep per night. How are you expected to take care of others if you can’t take care of yourself? Your body needs fuel to make decisions – especially important life or death decisions. Carry water, have granola bars handy, stock up on daily multivitamins, and keep up with annual doctors’ appointments.
You entered the field of healthcare for a reason – you’re already resilient. It just takes a few changes in strategy to keep it up and not let the grind get to you. Some days will be difficult. And that’s okay! Take a step back and reassess what you need to do to be the best and brightest version of yourself.
Ha is a third-year medical student at the University of Utah School of Medicine. She is passionate about medical education, mentorship, advocacy, and increasing access to healthcare. When she isn't cramming medical facts into her head, she enjoys checking out local coffee and boba shops, petting dogs, learning the latest hot K-pop choreo, drawing, and reading books