Life After Med School

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to bring you a dispatch from residency! Maglin Halsey-Nichols, M.D., a member of our charter class, is currently in her first year of residency in Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Department of Emergency Medicine. She sent us some thoughts about her first year out of medical school. Thanks, Maglin!

It has been so unbelievable to finally be in residency training. This is something I’ve thought about, stressed about, and longed for for years, and I’m finally here. On a daily basis, I am reminded of how thankful I am to be where I am now. But the road to residency was a long haul.

Medical school was my dream starting in high school. Nothing was going to get in my way. When I finally got there, I looked back and really couldn’t believe that I made it because I realized that I had NO idea what I was getting myself into. There was so much more to medicine than I had imagined during high school and college. But I made it this far, so I kept moving forward.

I enjoyed medical school. I liked what I was learning. But there were many days I couldn’t really envision where it would take me. For over half of my time in medical school, I didn’t even know what specialty I wanted to be in. I like to learn, so I tried to absorb all I could. But for the first time in my life, I didn’t have a clear vision of what I was doing. My goal had always been to get to medical school, and once I was there I realized I didn’t know what was next.

Choosing Emergency Medicine as my specialty was one of the biggest reliefs in my life. It gave me direction, and I was excited. I looked forward to continuing my medical training in that field. When fourth year of medical school came around, it felt so glamorous: getting to travel around the country, interviewing at numerous residency programs, imagining my life for the next 3-4 years. I felt so in control, yet I was completely at the will of The Match (the process by which 4th year medical students are placed into residency training programs).

On Match Day, March 17, 2016, I gathered with my classmates to open our carefully sealed envelopes that would reveal where we would be moving to complete our residency training. This was the day that my classmates and I had been working for for our entire medical school career. This is the ultimate event for a medical student. There are so many excited and terrified emotions that come with that day. Everything you have worked for comes down to one envelope.

When I opened my envelope, I felt a wave of relief. There was no longer any uncertainty. I had a job, and I knew where my husband and I would be moving. It will continue to be one of the coolest, and craziest, experiences of my life. I really did feel on the top of the world.

After Match Day, my classmates and I celebrated daily in the weeks leading up to our graduation. In those weeks, I also got married and bought a house with my husband…a lot of life events at once. We graduated at the beginning of May, and I was still floating on cloud nine. My husband and I immediately packed up and moved to Nashville. He started work, and I had a month to set up our new house. We relaxed, explored our new city, and just enjoyed life.

And then July 1 rolled around. This is the day new residents start work every year. It’s the day when people who were medical students yesterday are all of a sudden practicing medicine as doctors. Nothing can prepare you for what it feels like to have patients, nurses, and families looking at you and asking questions that you aren’t sure you know the answer to. But you have no choice but to figure it out. People are counting on you. Yes, in residency you have the supervision of your attending physicians, but the level of responsibility escalates quickly.

It’s a humbling experience to go from the kings and queens of the medical school to the bottom of the totem pole over night. That being said, I am beyond happy to be on this side of my training. I have officially started my career as a doctor. Everyday I’m in the hospital I get to take care of people, and I also get to learn.

I make mistakes. I say the wrong thing. I’m rarely as calm as I’d like to be. But I know I’m getting better.

I’m surrounded by some of the best teachers I could imagine who are supporting me every step of the way. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now than in my residency training. I have a lot of work left to do between now and the end of my residency, but I also understand now what it’s going to be like to be a life-long learner. Even when I finish residency, I will still have so much to learn. I honestly can’t wait.

To all the 4th-year medical students out there. Enjoy this time. There really is nothing like your last year of medical school. Learn all you can. Enjoy being with your friends and family. In less than a year, you will be sitting in a hospital, likely in a new city, wearing your scrubs, drinking your coffee, thinking about your patients, and reminiscing on how far you’ve already come.

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