imposter syndrome
CategoriesResident Corner

“Help! I’m just a junior”- How to deal with Impostor Syndrome

“Help! I’m just a junior”- How to deal with Impostor Syndrome

“I’m just a junior! I would’nt know! What have I got to offer, I’m at the bottom of the medicine food chain!”

These are just some of the things most doctors (if not all) have said at least once during their life as a Physician. As luck would have it, and as with most phenomena in medicine, there’s even a syndrome assigned to it – the infamous ‘Impostor Syndrome’.

What is Impostor syndrome?

Impostor syndrome is described as a feeling of inadequacy, where a person doubts what they know and what they are, with the constant fear that their accomplishments are dubious, and they may be exposed as pretending to be someone they’re not – a fraud.

In simpler words, Impostor Syndrome represents self-doubt, and the anxiety that comes along with it.

Feelings of uncertainty and perceived diminished value effectuate consequences not just for the doctors themselves, but also for their patients and those around them. In medicine, healthcare providers often find themselves living inside a constant bubble of necessary perfectionism – where we agonize over each and every one of our moves, constantly reminded of how people under our care could very well live or die through our actions.

This notion does not spare anyone. Students, residents and even attendings are all vulnerable, mostly because the nature of our job involves making sure everyone is satisfied, healthy and alive. Thoughts that creep into our minds frequently take form as ‘Did I write the proper history in the notes?’, ‘Did I examine the patient accurately?’, ‘What if my plan is not good enough?’, ‘What if I could have given this instead of what I thought at the time?’

Self-questioning and doubting is not always a bad thing. It is, after all, quite natural, and for some it even serves as a source of motivation to do better. However, when it encroaches your life, negatively impacting your mental peace and leading to signs of burnout, that’s when you know it needs to stop.

Here are some ways that physicians have shared that have helped them overcome Impostor Syndrome!

1. Focus on the positive side of things

The attending did not approve of your plan? The nurse had to remind you twice about an order? You didn’t get a question right when asked by an attending? Will you be spending the rest of your day thinking about these things? We as humans, tend to credit ourselves less on the good things, but focus majorly on the things we did wrong, so this is the first thing we need to work on.

At the end of each day, think of at least 2 things you did that lead to a positive impact. It could be as simple as greeting a patient kindly or giving way to a car on the road. This way you tend to value yourself more, and shift your attention towards the positive.

2. Seek Feedback

Human nature makes us want to criticise ourselves and question our abilities. It is difficult to accept compliments. How many times have you presented in rounds or during a conference, thinking you did your absolute worst, when someone came up to you and said it was an excellent presentation! The best way to overcome this harshness against ourselves is to seek honest feedback from a trusted mentor, or someone you spend a lot of your time with, and ask them for areas of improvement.

You’d be surprised with how your view of yourself contrasts with how others see you, and how your weaknesses could be a sign of strength to others.

3. Talk to others and express your feelings!

Talk to your colleagues, your friends, and let them know about your feelings. Chances are they must be going through the same, and sharing your strategies to overcome it may help not you alone but them too!

4. Draw a line between feelings and facts

There is a difference between feeling stupid and being stupid. You may have said or done something that you may feel was stupid, but that doesn’t mean that you are! The realization that you did something wrong itself shows that you have insight and you can work on not repeating it.

5. Remember where you started

‘Started from the bottom, now we here’ applies to this situation. Think of all those years you spent at your desk studying. All those hours practicing OSCEs, the countless exams you gave, the interview process you went through, and the fact that you were chosen out of a pool of candidates, because someone thought you were worth it. You did the hard work and you deserve every inch of being where you are. There’s no substitute for hard work, and you know it better than anyone.

6. Recognize where and when you feel like a fraud

If you’re the first from your family or society to become a doctor, if you belong to a disadvantaged racial group, if you are a person of determination, if you come from a different social class, you are more likely to feel added pressure. You may feel the need to carry all the weight on your shoulders, because you feel like you represent not only yourself but all those who identify similarly to you.

It is important to accept that it is normal to feel this way, but instead of taking this self-doubt and viewing it as something negative, take it as an opportunity and look at it as something to celebrate as you have opened the doors for many children in your society to accomplish what they believe in. So many people may find it easier to access healthcare, thanks to you!

7. Go easy on yourself

If you feel like you need to have the answers, and asking for help will make you look inferior, recognize that all of this is normal. Life is not a competition, and most of the people you are surrounded with would jump at the opportunity of helping you. They wont judge you for not answering, but they’ll definitely appreciate your eagerness to learn.

8. Fake it till you make it

courage comes from taking risks, you don’t always have to feel confident before you say or do something. How many times have you not answered in class thinking your answer is wrong, only to find someone else giving the same answer and getting it right? Put yourself out there, and confidence will follow.

Sumaiya Hafiz

Sumaiya Hafiz

I am an Intern House Officer in Dubai, with a profound interest in Emergency Medicine, particularly when applied in resource limited settings. I enjoy reading and writing articles on public education and spreading awareness on first response emergency care. Outside of medicine, I am a photography and travel enthusiast, always on the lookout for new adventures and experiences.

References

  1. Overcoming Imposter Syndrome In Medicine”. Com, 2021, https://www.wolterskluwer.com/en/expert-insights/overcoming-imposter-syndrome-in-medicine.
  2. “10 Steps You Can Use To Overcome Impostor Syndrome”. Impostor Syndrome, 2021, https://impostorsyndrome.com/10-steps-overcome-impostor/.
CategoriesResident Corner

Reflections on my Life as a Resident

Reflections on my Life as a Resident

I sit here on a Friday night with a Marvel movie running in the background, struggling to pen down in limited words what life as an ER resident has been like…. I truly am overwhelmed and not sure where to begin.

We all remember that feeling of walking to your first meeting with your fellow residents and your Program Director, the nerves of not knowing what to expect and the excitement of starting this phase of your career is something words cannot describe. But with my first step in, I knew that I was blessed! My batch consisted of a mix of cultures and personalities that so beautifully blended together, though each stood out with their own flavor. I knew these were 9 people who would be my backbone for the years to come.

All our seniors welcomed us with open arms and were so willing to impart their knowledge with us, to give us advice and to share their experiences that I knew we were in safe hands. Our Program Director spoke with earned wisdom, a handful of sarcasm and a pinch of calming, sometimes confusing humor. He made us feel important, gave us hope and assured us that he had our best interests at heart. We knew he had our back. With complete comfort and confidence, I was set to start off my journey… I truly could not have anticipated what was in store.

"She has this very effective, albeit slightly frustrating method of never answering a question directly!"

Assigned by the mentorship program, I was paired with a mentor that was a perfect fit for me. On day one she sat with me trying to understand my expectations, my aims and my struggles and made plans with me on how to achieve my goals. She has this very effective, albeit slightly frustrating method of never answering a question directly, but rather counter questioning, forcing me to search for the answers. Four years down the line I have to admit, I have learnt the most because of this, and funnily enough, find myself doing the same thing to my mentees now.

Of course, there are the experiences of encountering the very first case that made me sweat, or the first time I had to experience telling a family that their loved one did not make it, or even the first time I confidently gave a wrong order and the nursing staff looked at me with utter disappointment.

All of those emotion filled moments, some heart breaking and some heartwarming, those “wanting the ground to swallow you” moments, or those moments of intense self-doubt, or even the times you felt “I’ve got this!”. I’m sure you all have experienced them. That, along with exam stress, being involved in audits, researches and conferences, managing your time between shifts, family and your own sleep cycle, making incredible memories with your team, and with each shift, and each rotation that passes, when you reflect – you realize how much you’ve evolved, and matured.

I could not complete this reflection without mentioning the probably once in a lifetime experience of dealing with a full-blown global pandemic during our residency years! I feel so fortunate for the learning experience but unfortunate that our senior residency years were overtaken by Covid-19. What a nerve wrecking, exhausting, uncertain time it has been. However, it is one filled with opportunities to shine, and take on responsibility.

"A superhero that walks in to each shift with a smile, ready to take on the unpredictible"

Come to think of it, Emergency Medicine is much like The Avengers. I kind of see us as Spiderman. Young, enthusiastic, slightly nervous but always game and trying our best to grasp the wonderful qualities of our seniors.

Whether it be the practicality of Captain America, the boldness of Thor, or the ability to stay calm and witty during a tough code, like Iron Man. Learning to pay attention to the little things like Ant Man, leading with confidence like the Black Panther or understanding that some things just need to be tackled like the Hulk. We are all at some level trying to absorb and reflect these qualities to create our own personalized real life superhero.

A superhero that walks in to each shift with a smile, ready to take on the unpredictable. A hero ready to lead but willing to take a step back when needed. A hero that proudly realizes that they are nothing without their team. A hero that is always striving to be their best, and acknowledges that each day they are still learning and growing and trying to reach their aim of being an ideal hero.

And that in itself is one MARVELous journey.

Asima Ujra

Asima Ujra

A South African national.
Graduated from Dubai Medical College (2017).
Currently a 4th year Emergency Medicine Resident at Rashid Hospital Trauma Center. (RHTC)
Ex chief Resident of the EM residency program at RHTC.
Extremely grateful for the opportunity to practice, learn and grow in this beautiful field of emergency Medicine!
My interests are in the use of USS in the ER, critical care, trauma and above all my passion lies in academics and finding innovative ways to indulge in interactive adult learning.

Enjoy each day, live it to the fullest, and take on each task with a smile! That way nothing seems too challenging! 😊

Work Life Balance
CategoriesResident Corner

Balancing social life with a career in EM

Balancing social life with a career in EM

“I’m sorry, I have a shift that day.”

It’s a glorious Thursday afternoon. The sun is warm outside, the air is crisp, and everyone is heading home to start their weekend. While all the hospital employees are stuck in their cars on their way out of the hospital, the entrance gate is wide open, welcoming you in for your evening shift. Ah yes, another weekend working in the A&E.

Naturally, as an ED physician, you are left to pick up the pieces of reckless drivers & RTA’s, suture stab wounds, or even treat a casual renal colic. While the treatment room is bustling with patients, you don’t really notice the time. But when things start getting quiet, you start wondering what everyone else is doing in the outside world.

Instagram stories, Snapchat selfies, Facebook posts all featuring your friends (or foes) out and about. ‘Why wasn’t I invited?’ you wonder. But then you recall you were invited; sadly, you had to turn them down.

“I’m sorry, I have a shift that day,” you said. And with the power of eight words, you have single handedly ruined your social life. Or have you?

Choices, choices

“Life is a matter of choices, and every choice you make makes you.” I chose to study medicine, I chose to become a doctor, I chose to specialize in Emergency Medicine. Every one of those choices came with tremendous rewards, and certainly some not-so pleasant consequences. 

I will never forget the look of pride in my parents’ eyes the day I graduated, or the electric joy that surged down my spine when I matched for my residency program. Could I have chosen a completely different path for myself? One where I don’t have to come in to work in the middle of the night and leave with sunrise? Perhaps. But this is what I chose, and that choice made me who I am today.

“Life is a matter of choices, and every choice you make makes you.”

The shift shuffle

The universal reaction to the statement “I am an emergency resident” is, “Cool! But how can you manage with the shifts?” The simplest answer is, “You get used to it.”

The quintessential tool in the arsenal of any physician, yet alone emergency physician, is time management. Remember all those lectures you slept through trying to teach you to balance between work and your personal life? Well now’s the time to put it all into action. And if (like me) you’ve never paid attention to those classes, it’s never too late to learn a trick or two.  

Sometimes, you’re fortunate enough to have an understanding rota master who tries to accommodate every resident’s needs to the best of his or her ability (even reading that was a mouthful- imagine doing it). Even then, it would behoove you to plan your shifts in advance. If you know there’s a particular day you’d like to be off on, submit a request. Heck, if your friends are understanding enough, plan your outings. Share your rota with them as soon as you get it to try and fit a day that suits everyone. And if you miss this month’s barbecue, there’s always next month’s.

The point is…

It’s never easy balancing between your personal & professional life, regardless of your profession. Yes, it may be relatively harder being in our shoes, but we love our shoes enough to be able to switch between the sneakers we run around resus with and the heels we hit the dance floor with, effortlessly.

And to prove it, here’s a photo from my trip last weekend (which I planned a month in advance) where I got to go all the way to the beautiful city of Khorfakkan, when half of my friends didn’t even know where that was.

Nada AlSaeed Mohammed

Nada AlSaeed Mohammed

My name is Nada and I'm from the island nation of Bahrain. A nerd by profession, I enjoy exploring the nooks and crannies of every city I land in as much as I do inserting a line into every vessel I come across.

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