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A Day in the Life of a Postgraduate Trainee: Preventing Burnout

I was so excited to start my PGY1 pharmacy residency. Residency for me was an opportunity to develop my clinical skills, work on exciting new projects, and build rapport with my fellow pharmacists and members of the interdisciplinary team. But, oh boy, was I not prepared for the burnout I got in my first couple of months of residency. Slowly but surely, deadlines, projects, and assignments kept piling up, and it seemed as if I couldn’t overcome this slump I was in. Here are some tricks I have learned to help prevent burnout and re-motivate myself in residency.


Set Realistic Expectations

One of the primary causes of burnout is the misalignment of expectations. Residents often shoot for the stars with their goals. Although it’s important to strive to improve ourselves, perfection will never be achievable. It’s crucial to establish realistic expectations, both for yourself and for your preceptors. Understanding the challenges ahead can help manage stress and prevent burnout.


Prioritize Self-Care

Residency tends to have rigorous schedules and demanding responsibilities, often causing self-care to take a backseat. However, neglecting your well-being only exacerbates burnout. Be sure to make time for what truly makes you feel happy and refreshed – whether that be going to the gym, watching movies, or spending time with friends and family. To maintain a healthy work-life balance, it’s important to incorporate activities that bring you joy and relaxation.


Optimize Time Management

Residency programs can be overwhelming, with multiple projects, rotations, and deadlines. One way to help prevent burnout is to optimize your time management skills. A lot of successful residents use tools, calendars, to-do lists, and project management apps to organize tasks and prioritize responsibilities. Another trick I use to keep me motivated is to break down large tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. This makes my workload seem less daunting and helps keep me on track.


Seek Support and Communication

Residency is a challenging journey, but you’re not alone. If you have concerns about your performance or workload, speak with preceptors, fellow residents, or your program director to regularly discuss your progress, challenges, and concerns. Externally, friends and family can also be a source of comfort during this potentially stressful time. Seeking advice from those who have been through similar situations can provide valuable insights and emotional support.


Learn to Say No

As a resident, you may feel compelled to take on every opportunity that comes your way. Although embracing new challenges is essential for growth, it’s equally important to recognize your limits. Learning to say no is a crucial skill both inside and outside residency. Make sure you communicate your limits and boundaries respectfully to prevent adding on to your workload and further contributing to burnout.


Reflect on and Celebrate Achievements

Amid the hectic pace of residency, take the time to reflect on your accomplishments. Whether it’s something as small as finishing an assignment or as monumental as passing your boards, celebrating achievements can be a great way to de-stress and motivate yourself.


Pharmacy residency is a demanding but incredibly important part of our professional journey. By implementing these strategies, pharmacy residents can navigate the residency marathon successfully while preventing burnout. Remember that residency is an amazing learning opportunity; taking these steps to prevent burnout will help you be resilient and well-balanced, allowing you to work at the top of your license.


About the Author:

Angel-Rose is a PGY1 resident at Albany Medical Center in Albany, New York. Her pharmacy passions include emergency medicine, critical care, and substance use disorder. After completing her PGY1 residency, she wants to pursue a career as an emergency medicine pharmacist. In her free time, she enjoys playing video games, taking her dog on walks, and spending time with her close friends.

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