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Coping with family medical issues during residency?

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caffeinatedresident

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Current intern here with aging parents, including one with multiple medical crises over this past year, with known progression/worsening (though uncertainty in time frame). Family is far away, although I'm lucky that other family members have taken on the active roles of care-giving as they want me to focus on residency.

Intern year thus far: enjoy my patients, enjoy my coworkers (they make things better when things are tough, and are supportive, and fun to socialize with), enjoy my new city when I have time off (other than it's tougher to call home with timezone differences). Feel like I'm a mediocre resident so far: good comments for working hard/team player, not that confident in my clinical knowledge (but realize I actually have learned a lot, and feel capable of managing various things), no negative evals yet, did surprisingly well on ITE.

My year is backloaded and I have some intense rotations coming up back to back. I tend to get really tired after 12+ days on w/ no break, and feel like I have been getting more tired as the year progresses. When I am off, I usually spend a decent chunk of time coordinating medical care/having care discussions w/ home. When significant worsening does occur, I can compartmentalize temporarily when needed and get work done, but usually need some time at some point to process/accept things (and process guilt over not being there / grief over changes). As things get busier and I get more tired, my ability to manage stress well decreases. And, I'm about to become even busier and more tired soon, and I logically expect more medical crises to arise (just not sure when).

I realize many residents have dealt with illnesses and deaths of family members while they are in training...any advice on managing stress and coping strategies?
 

22031 Alum

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I lost a parent at almost the exact halfway point of residency, after a lengthy illness. Everybody copes differently, so what worked for me may not work for you. My religious faith helped me cope- attending services and other church events was like a surrogate for therapy. After coming back from the funeral, I also had near-daily vent sessions with a co-worker/friend (not a fellow resident). I could speak freely about work stress to someone who understood what I was talking about but was separate from it. That really helped. But to be honest, in that stretch from late second year through early third year (deteriorating condition, death and aftermath), I simply was not a great resident. I wasn't dangerously bad, but I wasn't excelling, and I made peace with it for that period of time.

Keep your program director(s) updated on the situation as much as you feel comfortable. It helps if they understand what's going on.
 

so721

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I lost a parent at almost the exact halfway point of residency, after a lengthy illness. Everybody copes differently, so what worked for me may not work for you. My religious faith helped me cope- attending services and other church events was like a surrogate for therapy. After coming back from the funeral, I also had near-daily vent sessions with a co-worker/friend (not a fellow resident). I could speak freely about work stress to someone who understood what I was talking about but was separate from it. That really helped. But to be honest, in that stretch from late second year through early third year (deteriorating condition, death and aftermath), I simply was not a great resident. I wasn't dangerously bad, but I wasn't excelling, and I made peace with it for that period of time.

Keep your program director(s) updated on the situation as much as you feel comfortable. It helps if they understand what's going on.

It also helps if they aren't malignant. Sorry for your loss.
 

caffeinatedresident

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I lost a parent at almost the exact halfway point of residency, after a lengthy illness. Everybody copes differently, so what worked for me may not work for you. My religious faith helped me cope- attending services and other church events was like a surrogate for therapy. After coming back from the funeral, I also had near-daily vent sessions with a co-worker/friend (not a fellow resident). I could speak freely about work stress to someone who understood what I was talking about but was separate from it. That really helped. But to be honest, in that stretch from late second year through early third year (deteriorating condition, death and aftermath), I simply was not a great resident. I wasn't dangerously bad, but I wasn't excelling, and I made peace with it for that period of time.

Keep your program director(s) updated on the situation as much as you feel comfortable. It helps if they understand what's going on.

Thanks for your kind reply. I really appreciate it.

I'm grateful that my family and I have decent support systems in place, and a little kindness does go a long way on hard days.

I had a med student friend pass away M3 year in an accident and developed coping strategies that actually made the remainder of M3 year better (mostly due to having a different perspective on things and reframing situations). This current situation has been more challenging since it keeps on changing (as progression/deterioration occurs), and the limited time away from work for logistical coordination/communication/emotional aspects is requiring adaptation.

I'm also sorry for your loss, and am encouraged by the fact that you made it through residency despite all those challenges.

Thanks again!
 
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