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Residents & Fellows Corner | Sept/Oct '14

A Day in the Life of a Resident: The Good, The Bad, and The Busy

When Dr. Ciralsky asked me to write about a day in the life of a resident, I immediately thought about my dream workday: sleep for 8 hours, wake up at 5 am, do interval training on the elliptical while simultaneously devouring the latest Ophthalmology or a BCSC chapter, eat a quick protein-dense breakfast, spend an exciting day in the operating room (or in clinic) with lots of interesting and gracious patients, enjoy a homemade dinner, and then relax in the evening.

Although some days resemble this, many are a bit different. Often, I am on call overnight, which involves managing inpatient and emergency department consults and transfers from outside hospitals. Mornings can be groggy. Armed with a cup of coffee, I spend the first hour of my day in morning conference, protected education time during which an attending leads an interactive discussion on topics such as corneal topography, the lacrimal functional unit, or nystagmus, to name a few. A full day of clinic follows. This involves history taking, refraction, examination, and note writing coupled with responding to pages, booking surgeries, filling out Department of Motor Vehicles forms, returning patient phone calls, and more. Attendings and fellows teach about exam findings, differential diagnoses, and ophthalmic imaging. On many days, there are opportunities for me to teach medical students or rotating residents from other departments. Throughout the day, there are quick “curbsides” and interesting discussions of complex patients being cared for by multiple ophthalmology subspecialty services. Clinic concludes with chart rounding, inpatient hospital consults, or add-on surgical cases. Dinner is most commonly some hybrid of hospital cafeteria fare, delivery, or leftovers. Evenings are filled with finishing chart notes, preparing presentations for Grand Rounds or fluorescein conference, working on a research project, reading, or the occasional wet lab. I fall asleep when my head hits the pillow.

A day in the life of a resident is busy. However, reflecting on my usual day highlights what a privilege it is to be a resident. It is a luxury to have so many people who want to teach, invest in my career, and help create learning opportunities. I do not have to travel to a conference or pay for continuing medical education—learning is all around me. And in very little time, residency will be over! For now, I am relishing in the chaos. Luckily, our hospital cafeteria food is pretty delicious.

Sarah Van Tassel, MD

Sarah Van Tassel, MD, is a second-year resident at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York. She may be reached at shvantassel@gmail.com.