Does Medical Training Get Easier As Each Year Goes By?

A few weeks ago, my husband completed his first year as a GI fellow.

“How did it go?” you ask us?

My husband would say he didn’t learn ANYTHING this entire year!

Turns out, this is a very common response for any resident or fellow who just finished their year.

He’s at the hospital easily “80” hours a week, so obviously, he did learn a ton. There is even physical proof of his growth: his hand muscles are much bigger! As a GI fellow, he’s been scoping and using muscles that he’s never had to use before. It’s great for me because I like squeezing his hands and enjoying the extra squishness of the palm of his hands! ❤️

I get why new residents and fellows say that, though.

Their training is like drinking from a fire hydrant. They have so. much. to. learn. that they never feel competent. It’s a cognitive dissonance where their emotions haven’t caught up to the fact that they are a lot smarter than they were.

All they feel they can do is take it one patient at a time, hoping that somehow, they will chip away at getting closer to their goal of being the great physician they’re meant to be.

However, if you ask any doctor what they think of the current incoming-year residents or fellows, they would ask, “Was I ever that bad?!?!” 🤣 

So Medical Training Get Easier As Each Year Goes By?

Yes and no.

After nearly a decade of medical training, here’s what it’s like for us.

Ways it got easier:

  • We are even more used to the ebb and flow of medical life.
  • Pagers beep are like war drums.
  • Instruments are just part of the decor on your dining room table.
  • Weekends and holidays apart are a given and we established a support network to help us when we need help.
  • With the kids becoming older, the more parenting experience we gain and the less their physical needs become.

Ways it does NOT get easier:

  • He still has so much to learn and that brings him pressure and stress at work.
  • Personal relationships (spouse, kids, grandparents, etc.) are still the biggest and hardest aspects of our lives, as it is for most people.
  • With the end of the tunnel in sight, talking about where we want to live when training is over is very hard. We will finally be able to choose where we want to live! But instead of rejoicing at this freedom, we actually experience stress while searching for the “perfect job” for our family.

There Is No Perfect Stage of Medicine

Because the medical journey is so long and many sacrifices have to be made, it’s easy to think that the next stage is always going to be better.

“Second year has to be better than intern year,” and so on, right?

But in my experience so far, once we THINK we know what to expect, life WILL give us a curveball.

(For example, did anyone know that a global pandemic that shut down the world economy would happen and that we would have to scramble for PPE in the middle of serious shortages so our DrSpouses can come home safely?!)

The best we can do in whatever stage of the medical journey we’re in is to have unconditional love and support for family and keep an open mind that each stage will bring its own challenges.

Life may suck as a resident or fellow because you’re living in a crummy apartment just because it’s what you can afford or it’s close to the hospital. But attending years can be hard because you have to care for aging parents and angsty teenage kids.

No stage will be better than the other.

They will just be different.

Adopt This Mantra: IT’S GOOD NOW

No matter what stage you are in medicine, do NOT hold out on happiness until any stage of the medical journey.

Dr. Cory S. Fawcett said in his award-winning book, Smart Career And Alternative Retirement:

“Tomorrow’s hopes should not steal today’s joy.”


To your strong medical family,