by Lisa Weaver, MD
Fall has always been my favorite season. I love the sunny days and cool evenings, the colorful leaves, the scarves and sweaters. As the air grows cooler and the days grow shorter, I have more gratitude for the time that I am able to spend outside. As I begin my last fall of residency, I have been reflecting on other transitions that are taking place in my life.
Change is constant, and it comes in many forms: weather, relationships, a new rotation. One of the most challenging aspects of residency is that your schedule and environment are changing monthly. This is especially pronounced in family medicine. We work in a large variety of clinical settings and we are continuously adapting to new environments, co-workers, EMRs, and skill sets. Residency is just three short years and yet that is a long time to be adjusting to new situations constantly.
The challenge with residency is that life outside of work is also changing. Our society, and especially medical culture, does not give us space to grieve these changes. We don’t stop changing, growing, and being human while in residency. Change can be the end of a relationship, a death, or even saying goodbye to a part of ourselves as we evolve into new beings. When my beloved grandfather died halfway through my second year, I was deeply saddened. However, I didn’t feel like I could take the time I needed to stop and experience my grief. I couldn’t travel because of the pandemic and so I just kept working. How different would life be if we took time to process endings, grieve them, and celebrate the growth and new beginnings that follow them.
As we find ourselves well into fall, many anticipate the transition into winter with some level of apprehension. Fall is a challenging time for many people. Seasonal affective disorder often flares up around this time, and this seems to be reflected in my current clinic schedule. There have been many days recently where at least half my patients are coming in to talk about mental health. While some of this can be attributed to a grueling 18 months of pandemic, it is not uncommon for depression and anxiety to surge around this time of year.
While I am appreciative of the change from summer into fall, right now it feels like a very tangible reminder that I am nearing the end of my residency season. Change, even good change, almost always brings stress. Although I am so excited to be done with this phase of my training, I am also anxious about what that means for me after this. It’s easy to doubt myself and ask “am I actually ready for this?” But regardless of the amount of time I spend training, I’m not sure I would ever be completely confident stepping into my new role as an attending physician. Change brings growing pains, and at some point you just have to go through it.
Maybe it’s the knowledge that before long, the evenings will be too dark and cold to be outside, but I always find a renewed appreciation for the outdoors during this time of year. How beautiful would life be if we reflected on and celebrated the other changes going on around us in a similar way? Perhaps I love fall because it gives me hope that I can better appreciate the beauty of being in other spaces where one season is ending and another is beginning.
Dr. Weaver is from Ephrata, PA. Her medical interests include women’s health, obstetrics, pediatrics, mental health, and LGBTQ medicine. She chose the University of Utah because of the unique mix and community and academic learning opportunities and the wonderful faculty and residents that she met during her interview. During her free time, she enjoys running, camping, weight training, playing violin, reading, and baking bread.