FM Residency: From 0 to 100 real quick

Or maybe it should be 0 to 800? 1000? Infinity? It’s been a pretty wild first month of residency.

Trial by fire

Our seniors and consultants would all say that the January/omicron surge was the wildest one yet: fastest rise to peak, and with an unprecedented number of cases.

Back in 2021, having more than 5 COVID positive patients for disclosure was already a trigger for an SOS. The January surge had us seeing up to 200 patients per day for disclosure. It was crazy.

I still can’t believe we’ve made it through the other side!

*Ish. We’re still going through a serious backlog of pending medical certificates.

Day 2 of 2022. I spent my first weekend of the year trying to make sense of the world with Kata and Joeric. My journal entry for that day read, “My back hurts, and maybe everything else in my body. It’s only my second day in residency.”

(Read: Calm before the storm: 2021 holiday season)

Here are the three (non-clinical) things I learned over January:

  1. Conserve your energy.
  2. You can’t do it alone.
  3. Change your perspective.

Conserve your energy. Learn to let go. For the first week of UPHS rotation, we used to stay up until 7 or 8PM in the office. Our queue for consults, disclosures, monitoring and return-to-work assessment kept rising exponentially. The remaining things to do justified the overtime. For the second week, we learned to go home early, but I’d still be charting and doing some telemonitoring tasks until 11PM. I know the others did the same. I personally felt guilty if I couldn’t hit a certain target.

But by the third week of January, I realized: the work may be limitless, but I can’t say the same for my energy. My earlier targets were impossible to meet.

As long as it’s not a literal matter of life and death, set it aside for the next day. Respect your own boundaries and others will do the same.

Capturing moments of sanity. To reinforce this lesson, I made sure to have semblance of a life outside work. Even if that just meant grabbing some coffee while running some other home errands, or enjoying some good food on my mom’s dime. And as an introvert, time for self-reflection was a necessity.

You can’t do it alone. Sometimes it takes a village. As a first year resident, I didn’t know what a “reasonable workload” looked like. If we asked for help, was that a sign of incompetence? If we didn’t ask for help, did we lack proper awareness? But I’m glad we had our chief resident, our acting CR, our training officer, and the many UPHS consultants. They could see the bigger picture that we could not –that a surge of that magnitude did, in fact, require more hands than just three organic residents.

From the middle of the first week onwards, it was already all hands and hearts on deck. Thank you to our senior residents (especially Dr. Ian and Dr. Ronan), our fellow first-year residents, and our consultants (especially Dr. Anuran, Dr. Engada, and Dr. MDMS!) for being easy to approach and quick to respond. And also for the occasional free coffee and food!

Shine bright like the sun: batch SINAG minus Kenneth. (We’ll be taking a new, complete batch photo soon). Our duty schedules all got messed up because of the pandemic –some got pulled out of community rotation, or the pay ward. And most of those rotating in FPC had to juggle both backup duties for UPHS and their regular patients. Thank you to infinity.

Change your perspective. Take it one day at a time. Every day of that first week felt like an insurmountable challenge. If I didn’t go through 36-hour duties in QMMC back in clerkship, I would have been tempted to call those days the most taxing of my medical career so far. Nothing beats measuring waste every 4 hours.

(Read: ten weeks and four lifetimes ago)

It wasn’t anywhere near the intellectual exhaustion that came with seeing many patients or thinking too deeply about clinical cases; it was the exhaustion that came with repetitive mechanical tasks that had no beginning nor end.

But as our training officer, Dr. Babsa-ay, would say every time he’d check up on us –starting rock bottom could only mean there was nowhere to go but up. And time did prove him correct. Either we changed or the world did –probably both– but in any case the burden became easier and easier to carry.

She made it through! I was still looking kind of fresh during the oath-taking ceremony held January 3, 2022. Now… I’m getting my skincare and exercise routine back, okay.

Staying sane

I recognize the extreme privilege I have in having even the time to think outside of work. (Wednesdays and Sundays are my designated house and self maintenance days.)

And also the extreme privilege of having access to my mom’s card –Lazada has been my best friend. Now that I’m an Adult, I really cannot describe the amount of joy I associate with decorating and furnishing my empty apartment.

As always, the key to staying sane includes: having a routine, forgiving yourself, keeping touch with friends, and receiving gifts (both from yourself and others #treatyourself).

Dinner with family. Once in awhile, I make it home just in time to join a family video call. One weekend night I even got a care package from home, featuring some tasty seafood for dinner.
Full stomach, empty kitchen. My pantry only has enough to keep me going during the weekends. The rest of the time, I spare my brain cells from making extraneous culinary decisions by subscribing to The Hearty Grub (for lunch and dinner on weekdays). Plus, the meals are calorie-counted and healthy! My routine lately has been to get as much sleep as possible; it’s been a long time since I’ve indulged on breakfast.

(Read: I made seven breakfasts and did Sunday laundry)

Sweet surprises. I’ve been a ghost to my friends lately, but their love has been haunting me. Ha! I got a housewarming present and a couple of other sweet gifts from Marianne, my first ever condo guest (we almost sat on the floor), and a surprise STAY HYDRATED reminder from David G and Faye. I love my friends. I am very sorry for missing out on things. I’ll be back…
Ways of coping, rainbow style. Spinning this wheel is an active decision I make every few days. Examples include: watching Eternals for the visual arts stim, painting, buying some good Japanese food, trying out some yoga and stretching my painfully tight hamstrings, and paying attention to my skin care routine.

End of an era

January dragged on so long that calling it an “era” feels like an understatement.

Surviving first month of residency, not to mention the surge, is worth a celebration. And that’s why we (Joeric, Kata, Berty and I –we were missing Marlo) made our way for a nice dinner at La Cathedral Cafe in Intramuros.

Looking forward to our first ever dinner as a batch!

Lights up. Ten out of ten, would recommend for the view. The food, price and service are all just so-so. I’ll definitely come back next time I’m in intramuros, though. Whenever that’ll be.

In times like these, I remember one of the most powerful words gifted to us, ASMPH batch 2021, by the rest of the Ateneo community:

“Hindi man alam ang gagawin, kung saang direksyon tutungo. Balikan ang dahilan, at laging tandaan, daig ng bakit ang paano.

Until next time! ❤️

P.S. Writing this blog post at home is also such a privilege. First time to sleep in my own bed since that very first duty of the year.

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