by Marta Schenck, MD
We go through many transitions during medical training. And each have their own difficulties. There’s the transition from didactics to clinicals in medical school, when you learn how to start applying medical knowledge to real patient encounters. Then there is the transition from medical student to resident, when you start to learn the accountability of being the provider for your patients. I recently made the transition from intern to senior resident. One of the hardest parts of this transition for me was the inherent leadership role that you take on as a senior resident.
I showed up on my first day as senior to our inpatient team and I was in charge of two new interns and a sub-I medical student. Then two hours later another third year medical student showed up, fresh for her first day of clinicals (ever). All of a sudden I had four people who were relying on me to guide them. So I did what I always do when stressed…find and eat food. And this became the glue that tied our team together. Leadership involves many things, but one that I found crucial was keeping the spirits of my team members high through the form of good food.
I think many people underestimate the role that food plays in our daily grind as medical trainees. We work hard on inpatient services. We have long hours. Often we are running from one thing to the next with no time to stop and eat breakfast, lunch, or even dinner. This wears on the psyche, causing increased burnout and fatigue. Many people just carry energy bars in their white coats or pockets, but while that provides some nutrition, it doesn’t provide the joy that eating a good meal does. My goal for the month of inpatient family medicine quickly shaped into the form of keeping morale high through keeping my teammates fed. Luckily for me, Salt Lake Regional Medical Center helps make this goal easy to achieve.
Our routine worked itself out over the first week. Pre-rounds on the fourth floor with brought-from-home coffee/beverages. Then while the interns were seeing their patients I would slip down to the cafeteria with the medical students to grab breakfast for everyone. We ate breakfast just before/during rounds. While I went to case management rounds the interns would run to the coffee shop for second round of warm (or cold!) beverages for everyone. Soon after rounds we would grab lunch, then the afternoon would be broken up by a trip to the physician’s lounge for some snacks. Just before evening sign out a variety of us would order dinner to be taken home. And so we proceeded, day after day, keeping spirits high which allowed us to focus our energy on caring for our patients.
Leadership comes in many forms and has many aspects. One important aspect of leadership involves supporting your team to allow everyone to thrive in their own right. I was lucky on my first month of senioring. Everyone on my team also appreciated food and I was able to use this to sustain them through the stress of inpatient medicine. Maybe food will not be the driving factor the next time I am in a leadership role, but I learned from this month that as long as you can support your team, you can help them achieve greatness (or at least survive, as is the case during much of residency).
Marta Schenck grew up in Portland, Oregon. She received her undergraduate degree in biology at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. After a several month detour traveling through South America, she returned to Portland where she worked as a medical scribe and completed her medical degree at Oregon Health & Science University. She chose the University of Utah because of the welcoming faculty & residents and the opportunity to get full-spectrum training to help her reach her goal of practicing in a rural community. Aside from rural medicine, her other medical interests include women’s health, obstetrics, palliative care, and geriatrics. As an outdoor enthusiast, she enjoys hiking, rafting, skiing, & biking, all of which added to the appeal of University of Utah & Salt Lake City. When not at the hospital or in the wilderness, she can be found baking, reading, or puzzling.