Before You Start Your Residency Journey

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Hi everyone,

Many of you are about to start your first year of residency. I recently wrote an email to a reader who requested advice before beginning their first year.

Please note this is coming from a family medicine resident. I believe this post may be relevant to other specialties as well. Hope you find this helpful.

For those of you who are starting residency in Ontario and having to do PRP1 and PRP2 – here was my post from 2020:

You will feel excitement, anxiety, nervousness before beginning residency. I advise you to take a vacation and travel, take some time for yourself and relax before things get busy. Yes there will be things you will not know in the first few weeks of residency and beyond – but you will learn them in due time. Trust in that. You don’t go into residency knowing everything – that is why residency exists . To learn! 🙂 So enjoy your time now! Things will get busy as soon as you begin and it is easy to burn out. Wellness & rest is important.

Get all your paper work and certifications scheduled or done. We completed this in our first year (in the beginning) ACLS, NRP, ALARM etc.

Ok this is at the top of my list for parents – as soon as you learn about where you matched, if you have kids then immediately start looking into daycare / school options if there is no one who are able to care for them at home. The waitlists can be LONG. Put your kids on multiple daycare/preschool names if you have to. Does your program have child care for residents? Inquire about it.

Speak with some of your seniors – they will help you adjust your expectations, guide you to helpful and important reading material, they will share with you important advice about the preceptors you will be working with and what their expectations will be.

If you’re moving to a new city for residency, connect with your senior residents, they can provide advise about where to stay (how close or far you are from the hospital/clinic), whether you need a car, public transit options, parking, food/grocery/shopping etc.

Find out if your program has a facebook group to join. We had a wonderful Queen’s family medicine resident group that we all joined and we kept connected that way. A lot of people had questions that needed clarification and we all continue to help one another to this day.

Purchase comfortable pair of shoes as you will be standing and walking for long periods of time on various rotations. I purchased Dr. Scholl’s black shoes and they are awesome -> I continue to use them daily.

I purchased a planner to write things out in, it helped me organize my schedule and things I had to get done in a timely manner. The first half of the first year was very over whelming.

You may need to purchase a lab coat depending on whether your preceptor wants you to wear it or not. Other things you can purchase if you want are scrubs (I love Wonderwink from Amazon), stethoscope, water bottle, backpack etc.

Family Medicine Notes is a great textbook! I purchased the hardcopy. I have it beside me at my computer ALL THE TIME. Our program has a certain amount of funding for education expenses that we can spend over 2 years, so I used that money to spend on my textbooks. See if your program has this funding amount for you and use it!

Apps that I found helpful:

UptoDate (when you sign up, the cost is in US dollars. Log in through your OMA membership to get a discount and also use the discount code TRAINEE2 or CANADA5)


Thrombosis Canada

Opioid Calculator


StudyGuide (Western)


Microsoft Lens (this helped me scan documents using my phone)

General advice:

If you really wanted to review/study things, use the family medicine notes textbook and even this website:

Remember first year is overwhelming, you may feel stupid, as an IMG/CSA resident you may compare yourself with the other CMGs. Try not to do that, everyone has their strengths and weaknesses.

You may feel that you should know more or you should do better, you WILL meet preceptors who treat you like crap and then you may go home super disappointed that you didn’t do better. It’s hard not to feel this way.

This is all a part of residency, good days and bad days. At the end of first year or even at the end of your second year you will look back at yourself and see the changes in yourself, the transition you have made over time. Be proud of how much you have accomplished. You will start feeling more confident in your decisions, you may feel that you can better deal with anxiety compared to the start of residency. In the first year I kid you not, I had tachycardia most of the time (my Fitbit was averaging 115-130 beats/min) especially during my IM rotation. By the time second year rolled around I refused to let any preceptor make me feel like shit. I began feeling more comfortable with telling preceptors I DON’T KNOW something, because I really did not know. I will look it up, learn it so that next time the same patient case comes through the door I have an idea as to how to go about working up the patient.

No one knows everything. The best advice I got from one of my preceptors was that they much rather have a resident who admits they do not know something rather than than a cocky resident who says they know everything, make mistakes and potentially hurt the patient.

The last thing I would like to add is, life does not stop during residency. You may get pregnant & start a family, you will have kids who fall sick, a family member may get a life altering diagnosis…life happens. In addition to the stress of residency, you also have to juggle the stress of your family/personal life. During these times don’t be afraid to reach out to your closest friends, your mentors, speak with a counsellor/therapist or even let your program know you need some time off. You will pick things up once you get back. Your spot will still be there for you.

These years of residency will change you in many ways. The knowledge and experience you will gain will be amazing. You will learn so much about yourself and what you can handle, what you like and what you don’t like! Be comforted in knowing that once you finish residency you will not know everything, you reach out to your colleagues and ask for advice and make the right decisions. (I have joined this group called First 5 Years in Family Practice (Ontario & Canada) on facebook, they are all family physicians in various stages of their career – new grads to seasoned practitioners who help each other out!) Jobs are plenty when your graduate – family docs looking for locums or wanting someone to take over their practice! 🙂

Good luck on this amazing journey. As you have likely read on other posts, the days will be long but the years short. Feel free to ask me anything. I will continue to update this post.

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