Surgery on the second day of residency? Jocelyn Beach, MD, didn’t expect this swift initiation, but she welcomed the opportunity and has spent the last month pouring 80 hours a week into working inpatient floors and performing in the operating room. The life of a resident is grueling—and rewarding. Here, Jocelyn takes us on the roller coaster ride that was her first month interning at Cleveland Clinic as part of our ongoing series.
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Every summer brings a mix of excitement and anxiety to academic hospitals as eager new doctors and fellows arrive to begin or advance their training. This year, I found myself within one of the more feared subgroups as a surgical intern.
Starting as a new intern, you feel painfully inefficient as you triple check your first orders, run up stairwells you do not have access out of, and constantly wish you could be in four places at once. You are the first to arrive and one of the last to leave. I put in hours of work before most people roll out of bed, aim for a bedtime I haven’t seen since middle school, and enjoy nightly milkshakes to help regain a few lost pounds. For 80 hours a week paid at a modest rate, my current position may seem undesirable to most. Fortunately for me, I couldn’t be happier.
I muddled through my first month of residency with vascular surgery alongside my mentors, Daniel Clair, MD, and Sean Lyden, MD, on the team where I first fell in love with the field. Add in Levester Kirksey, MD, a welcoming new staff, two amazing nurse practitioners, a fantastic fellow, and my favorite general surgery resident, and my first month of residency rapidly transformed from being feared into my intern heaven.
On my first day, Dr. Lyden introduced me to one of his long-standing patients with a nonhealing foot wound that was making him ill. Dr. Lyden followed with, “My second day of residency, I performed my first surgery. Guess what you’re doing tomorrow?” That night, I prepared to perform a below-knee amputation, and sure enough, the next morning I stood across the operating table from Dr. Lyden as he handed me a scalpel and announced my first surgery as a doctor.
Jocelyn Beach, MD
Those first days set the tone for the rest of month. Despite being a new intern, I spent time almost every day in the operating room and was welcomed as long as I kept up with my work on the inpatient floors. While my role ranged from human retractor to surgeon junior, there was always plenty to be learned from every case, and effort was made to include me when possible. On the inpatient floors, I had amazing nurse practitioners and the J81 nurses to quickly get me up to speed, help me be more efficient, and sneak me afternoon snacks. It was not uncommon for me to be the only trainee rounding with staff, and I was treated as valuable as everyone else when communicating and executing plans for our patients. Working alongside individuals who respect each other and provide excellent care for our patients, you can’t help but have fun and feel proud about what you do.
I could not have asked for a better start to residency. Turned out, most of my fears were unfounded and I was probably more prepared that I gave myself credit for. Nonetheless, the learning curve is incredibly steep, and every small victory is rapidly followed by a reminder of how little I know, how much I have to learn, and how fragile our patients can be. I will admit, this is not an average intern’s first month and not every month will be this satisfying. But even if it is downhill from here, I could not asked for a more perfect month to kick off my training.