Residents are (not) Just Some Mere Students

“Where do you work?”

“I currently don’t, I study again.”

“Oh, so you are a student, what do you study?”

“I am a resident at Pathology Department.”

“What is resident?

There you go, a conversation I experience often. I personally believe that my ‘resident friends’ also get these questions often.

Residents are general practitioners who study deeper, they take a specialised branch of medicine to focus on. In my case, I choose Pathology. What is pathology? Well, I will explain later, but not in this post. Basically, resident is doctor who is studying to be a specialist. They are already doctors, but they are not yet specialist. Simple logic.

Now what do residents do? They learn, but maybe it is difficult to imagine to some people, that residents study and learn but not in the way “students” usually do. People think taking specialist is the same as going to campus where you go to a classroom and sit down while your professor talking in the front and giving you lectures. Oh, don’t get me wrong, we still have that, but maybe just 10-14 days out of 3 to 6 years. We have so few lectures. So what do the residents do? We “work”. Yes, we learn by doing. The senior residents will teach the junior ones how to do things in resident world. From administrative tasks to “handling” patients. Most of the skills of meeting the patients and their family will come from personal experience working as general practitioners. But specialised skills will depend on what “lane” a resident opted.

People think, or at least most Indonesians do, that being a doctor is (or was) a noble act. The people expect that if you become a doctor, you will be rich, your family will be famous. At least those are the common misconceptions. People love to only see what they want to see. Like, only some famous doctors who ride Porsche. But many doctors still struggle to get sufficient earnings. Some of them work in three places to earn enough, enough for their family. A resident is well not yet paid to date. We basically pay to learn by working. This is how things work. Hundreds of discussion were held many places to talk about how residents should get paid for their hard work. This twisted hair yarn is too complicated to untangle for now.

Many residents must live in the hospital, literally, especially the junior ones. Don’t ask me why. If you are one of blessed families of residents, you know. They seem to be always somewhere else but home. Phone(s) are always near, and calls often ring even at the darkest night. Dark circles are the hottest eye makeup and gadgets (used to be books) can be seen at vicinity (to communicate with the whole resident teams, google terms, open PDF e-books, and to type in assignments, etc). Working with the patients is a must, but assignments are like snacks, we have them quite often. The ability to juggle tasks from patients, book reading, journal reading, case reports, to thesis, is a principal skill a resident must acquire during study.

I have faced many interesting people during my residency. I grew from a total complainer to a more grateful person. I always know that I can not change other variables other than my behaviour. I was resistant to input and unwanted ‘accidents’, also naive and easily glooms over failure. I face much more than possible to do in a day right now, and I have learnt important thing, that we can NOT DO anything on our own. We must acquire help from other people nicely, help others although they might not ask it. Sometimes it’s compulsory to delegate tasks to succeed. There are many types of people, and how we adapt and work with them is very important. We can’t be selfish in this world, and putting our pride ahead is not always the wise thing to do.

It is irrefutable that the ability to adapt both emotionally and physically is an utmost necessity to survive in life and in this case, in residency. It can become exhausting, sometimes seems impossible to accomplish, but when you can perform well, it is worth the price. Especially if you are able to help the patients and their family.


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