It is the end of yet another year, another training, and another phase – Chief Resident Year or as some like to refer it to as “Chiefdom.” This has been one of the most rewarding and trying years in my training for many reasons. First and foremost, the trust that is bestowed upon a Chief Resident is truly remarkable. We are asked to mentor the residents, lead the changes and foresee pitfalls of innovations in the curriculum, educate students, staff the hospital & clinics, and most off all be the person that others can count upon.
I learnt that there are three glass balls in the air at all times: the interests of the residency program, the residents, and the patients. And as chiefs, we need to find the perfect pattern to juggle them and keep them from falling. There will be times when one ball is beginning to descend too low but vigilance can help restore the cycle.
There is no such thing as a “perfect schedule.” We labored over the resident schedules. Spent multiple weeks and countless hours daily on the scheduling of residents. And just when we thought we had perfected the schedule, it was not long before an error was identified. I learnt that perfection is not feasible, but striving to resolve the problem that occurs is very doable. Errors are made frequently – acknowledging and working to resolve them earns more respect from our colleagues and juniors than perfection.
As a manager we gain knowledge about confidential projects and conflicts, whether that involves residents, medical students, attendings, or the institution. Maintaining this confidentiality is the responsibility of a leader and showcases the character of a chief resident. It is a responsibility that is not to be taken lightly.
Working with others is not easy. We are always taught to “play nice in the sand box” but not really taught what to do when conflicts arise. And believe me, conflicts will arise and difference of opinions will be voiced. Our reaction to them is judged as much as our involvement or instigation of the conflict. After making mistakes and learning from those of others, I offer these words: take a deep breath in, write down your initial reaction, then destroy the paper. Come back a few hours later (if time is of the essence, a few mins later) and think about it – remember that it is our task to resolve the conflict in the most respectful manner. I can’t say that I always practiced this, but when I did, it helped me navigate a challenging course.
Looking back at this year, I was lucky to have wonderful co-chiefs and program leadership, who have helped me grow both personally and professionally. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I am very thankful for it. To the future chiefs, I only wish you the best and hope you enjoy this year as much as I did. To the residents (and graduates) of our program, I am very excited to be your colleague and proud to work beside you as we strive to make a difference in our patients’ lives.