“Doc, which C is worse for me… cancer or coronavirus?” Many patients asked this question. The anxiety of a new cancer diagnosis, waiting to start treatment, and then suddenly news of a pandemic changed everything for all cancer patients. Bewildered, some patients would hesitate to come to the hospital while others would try to hide their viral symptoms to prevent interruption of treatment. COVID-19 has presented varying challenges to all health care professionals, and being a resident physician involved in caring for cancer patients has its own unique difficulties.
“You are a bright, grown-up girl now, almost 15-years old. You must take ownership of yourself and your body and look after your physical, mental, and emotional health. Eating healthy food, making healthier choices, exercising even if just for 30 minutes, and reaching out to the therapist again will go a long, long way.” This is the kind of advice I was giving my teenage patient last week during continuity clinic, and the kind of advice I am sure you give out too, no matter what specialty you are in. However, sometimes it feels hypocritical. As a resident physician, I wonder how many times a week do you give advice to your patients that perhaps also applies to you?
By Dr. Laura A Hanyok
Assistant Dean, Johns Hopkins Graduate Medical Education Office
Imagine being a new intern at Johns Hopkins. You have graduated from an international medical school and are eager to start your career as a physician by pursuing leading-edge graduate medical training in the United States. You are aware of the stresses of residency and are mindful of the need to prioritize your well-being during your years of training. Fortunately, you know that Johns Hopkins has taken a progressive approach to promoting clinician well-being in their training program. Over the next year you see these initiatives in action.
On orientation day, you hear a presentation from the leaders of the Graduate Medical Education (GME) office. They frankly discuss the challenges in residency training, including stressors you might encounter and the increased suicide risk that residents have compared to young adults who are not physicians. This helps to normalize your concerns. They also share information about the resources that the hospital and university provide, and ask you to think about what your support system will be while you are in training. As an international medical graduate, this piece particularly resonates with you, as you realize you may not have the same established support system as other colleagues who have more friends and family nearby.