Residency Tips #29 – Starting Residency With A Baby At Home

Questions Answered About Residency

I get hundreds of questions about residency training, internship, and the clinical years of medical school. Lately, it seems that I have been getting more & more questions pertaining to preparing for residency when you have babies at home.

Well, here’s one email response to such a question. This is Tip #29 from the Residency Tips Series.

If you’ve got a question of your own, just ask. (I will not publish your name or other personal identifiers unless you’re giving me a testimonial & you give me permission to use your name.) In fact, you can ask the questions anonymously if you want, but I won’t be able to get back to you unless you leave your email.

Anyway, on to Tip #29…


I received your question from the site and I wanted to offer some insights.

(“I have an 11 month old baby, Would I be able to manage my work and my family?”)

First of all… congratulations on the baby 🙂

Is it possible to manage your work and your family with a little one in the house?… absolutely. However, it takes some planning and it will be a source of some stress at times.

My wife and I were in the same class in medical school. And we had a child at the beginning of our third year of med school, and another at the end of our internship, and yet another right before residency ended. So, we’ve dealt with a lot of the same things you are about to go through. That being said, your situation is unique to you.

The first thing would be to assess your support structure and your “allies”. Possible support includes your family, your spouse’s/significant other’s family, your spouse, close friends, your siblings, your parents. Again, I don’t know your situation. But, don’t assume that others are unable to help in some way. It may not be watching your child during the day or call-nights, but for some it may be as simple as picking them up from someone else’s house, or picking up diapers the next time they go to the store, etc. It will be difficult to ask for help in some cases, but you may just have to.

By assessing your allies, I mean people that you may not be close to right now, but can offer some support in some way. One ally might be an upper level resident who previously went through the same thing. They know the residency program you are in… they know who is easy to approach about this subject and who should never be approached… they know local resources… they may know of an attending that lets residents leave for family reasons, etc. You might say, well, I didn’t start yet and I don’t know these people. Guess what? A great resource for who is who is the department secretaries. They know the gossip. Ask them… “Has anyone recently gone through this program with a baby at home? I just need some tips.” You can also ask them, “What do you recommend?”

Another ally might be the chief resident… Let’s say you know your spouse has a particularly busy time of year coming up… you can ask for lighter schedule/electives around that time… Vice versa… if you know you’ll have more support at a particular time of year, then see if you can do your harder rotations during that time. Again, this takes planning. You’ll need to review your yearly block schedule and try your best to make arrangements as early as possible.

And the more stuff you have pre-packaged, the better. Let’s say you want to do a critical care rotation in December because you will have more support at home… well, look for someone that has critical care in December and ask them if they’d be open to switch (most would prefer not to have a call month near their holidays). If they are open to switching, then just mention that to the chief resident or whoever controls the block schedules. The less they have to do, the more likely you’re going to get what you want.

Another thing is… don’t waste any time. When you’re at work there is going to be downtime. You should take care of things you can during that time… you need to pay your bills, work on a presentation, arrange a doctor’s appointment, signing charts (if you have to dictate), filling out forms, etc. Surfing the internet, gossiping, etc are all completely a waste of time and will take you away from things that will free up time at home. Very important.

There are two very important things to prepare yourself for:

* Communication
* Guilt

Communication is of the utmost importance. Your non-medical family and friends (your support network) will not understand what you are going through. They won’t understand that even though you’re at the hospital or office a lot, you may have to come home and read or prepare a presentation, etc. They need to know this and they need to know why it is so stressful for you. And I mean a sit-down-heart-to-heart “Mom, I’m worried” “Honey, I’m scared.” etc.

Communicate with your co-residents and your chief resident. Apologize when you inconvenience someone. And don’t assume that you know the answer. You might surprised what happens when you just ask.

Guilt is probably the toughest. You will miss things like bedtime, bath time, important milestones, etc. You will have to deal with crying when you leave (your child and occasionally you).

I hope this is helpful.

Let me know if you need anything else.

Dr. Tori

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