It’s day 1 of “attendingship,” and I’m back to wearing my white coat after years of being confident enough in myself to think I didn’t need it to look like “the doctor.” Is it okay to park here? Does my clinic have a staff bathroom? Will my log in work? Oh my gosh, how do I place orders?! I remember this feeling – it’s intern year all over again, except there’s no senior resident to rescue me now – here we go!
As a new attending, the amount of responsibility can be intimidating and overwhelming. It is important to remember that you are not alone, you have a whole team supporting you whether you are in clinic or the ICU. Be sure to introduce yourself to those who you will be working with, get to know them, their roles, and figure out the best way that you can help each other with the ultimate goal of helping patients. In addition to meeting your own team, it is important to introduce yourself to your new colleagues – especially if you are new to the institution. Drs. Fielder and Sihag suggest putting together an introductory email to those who may be referring to you that includes an overview of what you do and how you can help, as well as your contact information. They also suggest maintaining an open line of communication and keeping the referring provider updated on your mutual patient (Fiedler AG, Sihag S. J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg.). While this may sound antiquated, in my experience thus far, my colleagues have greatly appreciated this gesture.
Even though you will be surrounded by a plethora of new colleagues, the transition to attending can be lonely – especially if you are moving to a new institution. Be sure to keep in touch with your co-residents, co-fellows, mentors, and, of course, your friends and family. Studies have shown that support mitigates stress and reduces job strain, which can lead to better health outcomes in the long term (Fiedler AG, Sihag S. [above]). Another great source of support for me is my CHEST colleagues. If you have not already, I highly suggest joining the CHEST Network(s) that aligns with your career interests. This is a great way to not only network with those who share the same niche as you but also to explore academic opportunities outside of your institution. Through the CHEST Home Mechanical Ventilation and Sleep NetWorks, I have gained mentors, made friends, and have become more involved in CHEST’s annual meeting, chairing my first session this year.
Adjusting to your new schedule can be just as hard as adjusting to a new role or new institution. After years of moving through the well-oiled, regimented machine that is medical training, there are suddenly no more rotations, no more research blocks, and no more protected time for learning. Dr. Okereke suggests creating a weekly calendar, which blocks time for not only your clinical duties but for studying (as you will be taking boards during your first year), academic endeavors (teaching and/or research), and, most importantly – for fun (Okereke I. J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg.). Being cognizant about maintaining work-life balance is key once you become an attending. It is finally time to learn how to take time off, away from all things work, and to not feel guilty about it.