In my enthusiasm to congratulate graduating med students, I forgot that RESIDENTS are graduating too! Liana at Med Valley High and Michelle at The Underwear Drawer (via her twitter feed) have written about unexpected moments of depression and pangs of nostalgia during their last days in residency. This may take some people by surprise; after a bazillion years of long hours, low pay, excruciating mental challenges, you'd think a graduating resident would be sprinting for the door. But pangs of grief?
I felt exactly the same way as my Family Medicine residency was winding down. Even though I'd had most of my worst days at my residency hospital, I'd also had many of my best. And then there was saying goodbye:
This is a photo from graduation day, 2004. From left to right: Dr. Santell, our mentor and conscience; my sister resident, Cori; me; and our great resident colleague, Suzin. (Yes, I know I'm rumpled, I know I have baggy eyes--I was TIRED, okay? I'll tell you the story of how we put graduation together, and how it very nearly killed me, another time.)
When you leave residency, even though you're probably going towards something wonderful--the rest of your life, for example--you're also leaving something you might never find again: the camaraderie and friendships formed in the pressure cooker of resident life. After three years working side by side, running from crisis to crisis, I know I could trust my life to Cori and Suzin, and they know the same about me. As for Dr. Santell, who died unexpectedly on March 24th, 2006, all I can say is: he taught me everything I know about being a doctor. I think about him every day. Whenever I'm the least bit tempted to cut corners on a workup or an H&P, I imagine the expression on his face whenever he caught one of us in such an error, and I turn around and do the right thing.
There aren't that many other experiences wherein such relationships are forged. I suppose comrades in arms feel the same way--I couldn't say. But I can say that--although my college loyalty has faded into nothing, and my med school bragging rights have fallen flat--my residency years grow in importance with each year that passes. I believe I formed the core of my personal code of ethics during those years, and perhaps this is the reason why sometimes I long to be back there, with my friends and Dr. Santell.
(Of course, I might have Stockholm Syndrome. Hm.)