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Time: Maximizing Your Most Valuable Commodity During Residency

Time is at the premium for dermatology trainees, especially those with families.

“Time is the most valuable commodity I have and through my near-decade of training it becomes more important each day,” said dermatology resident Luke Maxfield, DO, a husband and father of two.

Sang Kim, MD, a dermatology resident, husband, and father of two, said, “We are constantly in a cycle of waking up, taking care of the newborn, getting ready for work, dropping off and picking up the two-year-old from daycare, eating dinner, doing chores and repeating it all over again!”

“Being a high achiever, I still want to participate in research, read all of Bolognia, engage in membership committees, conferences, etc.,” said dermatology resident Jackie McKesey, MD, MS, who is pregnant with her fourth child. “For me, I struggle with the stress of wanting to do all these things (and the anxiety associated with not doing these things, or not doing them well) with the stress of wanting to spend more time with the kids.”

How can a dermatology trainee with a family maximize their time to the fullest? Here are top tips from the dermatologists surveyed:

Set Priorities

“Keep your priorities clear,” Dr. Kim said. “For me, it was family #1 and doing well in residency #2. Make sure you carve out enough time to do your top priorities to the fullest. Everything else can wait.”

“Identify what is important to you,” Dr. Maxfield said. “For me, it is God, family, and then exercise and my major destressing activity of surfing. These priorities for me have become non-negotiable, and I will adjust everything possible to see through any commitment related to these categories.”

“I love to exercise, too, so I try my best not to let this fall to the last priority,” said Dr. McKesey.

Wake Up Earlier

“This is how I got through the first year of residency,” Dr. Kim said. “I would often wake up at 5 a.m., do a quick workout in the hospital gym, and study for an hour before starting clinic.” Dr. Kim noted that he hasn’t been waking up early since their second child was born, who is not yet sleeping through the night. He is hopeful he’ll return to waking up early soon. “I see this as (hopefully) a brief season.”

“Sleep has become less and less important to me,” said Dr. Maxfield. “In medical school, I woke up at 7 a.m. During my clinical rotations, it has become 6 a.m. and then 5 a.m. In my intern year, it moved as early as 3 a.m. I have now settled on 4 a.m. as a happy compromise. Sleep is just a means to an end now for me.”

Keep a Schedule

“Arrive at ‘x’ time and leave by ‘x’ time even if you haven’t completed every note or called back every patient. I am not the best at this, but slowly learning with the help of my wife,” said dermatologist James Contestable, MD.

“Sticking to a regular schedule every single day that is sustainable is the key to maximizing your time,” Dr. Kim said.

Make Every Second Count

“Listen to Derm-In-Review audio and dermatology podcasts while you’re commuting,” said Dr. Kim. “Make Anki cards and work through them during idle time.”

Identify Wasted Time

“I watch no TV unless it is with my spouse and that’s how she wants to spend our time together,” said Dr. Maxfield.

Put Hobbies on the Back Burner

“I gave up my hobbies of painting, chess, reading, football, etc., in order to ensure time with my children,” Dr. Maxfield said. “I can pick these tasks up after residency is complete.”

Involve Family in Your Workouts

“Instead of traditional workouts, we have taken to working out as a family in the form of long walks in the early evening hours,” said Dr. Kim.

Recognize Residency is Hard

“It’s OK if you’re struggling,” Dr. Kim said. “Just do your absolute best and everything will fall into place.”

Dr. Kim encouraged residents that residency and family life can coexist and that the stresses of navigating both are only for a season. “Three years will go by quickly, and it is absolutely possible to have a rich and fulfilling family life while also kicking butt in residency.”

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