Five lessons for new doctors

The beginning of summer marks a rite of passage as chief residents complete their training and medical school graduates begin postgraduate training.

Here are five areas that young residents and attending physicians should consider as they embark upon the next phase of their careers.

1. Keep learning

A physician’s education is lifelong and should never end. Abraham Maslow’s stages of learning provide valuable insight into the transition from student to doctor. The four stages are:

  1. Unconscious incompetence
  2. Conscious incompetence
  3. Conscious competence
  4. Unconscious competence

One must navigate these and embrace each transition to help understand progress and improvement.

2. Accept fear

Fear is inherent in the human condition and part of our profession. Young residents and attending physicians must accept fear as a necessity and look for the positives it brings. If we lose fear, we lose the sense of anxiety that drives improvement, learning and achievement.

3. Learn from failure

Failure helps us learn and grow. Experiencing failure and learning from it is essential to our long-term ability to progress and succeed.

4. Exude empathy

Empathy is critical to a physician’s success. The ability to put ourselves in the position of our colleagues and patients allows us to be more successful as medical professionals and leaders. Understanding perspectives improves our decision-making and permits others to trust us.

5. Maintain humility

As we gain more knowledge and become more successful, it is important to maintain a great deal of humility. Success is built upon the experience of many. No one is infallible or perfect. As we work within teams of caregivers and gain perspective on the plights of our patients and our partners, humility becomes even more essential.

Everyone on the team has a perspective and independent thinking within the team should be encouraged. There truly is a “Wisdom of Crowds.” It is hardly surprising that the more knowledge we gain, the more humble we become. While e=mc2 may be Albert Einstein’s most famous equation, my favorite equation of his is:

EGO = 1/knowledge

David Langer, MD, is chair of neurosurgery at Lenox Hill Hospital. He is internationally recognized as an expert in cerebral revascularization and cerebral aneurysms. Since 2013, he has focused on expanding neurosurgery at Lenox Hill while maintaining a practice in spinal disease and benign brain tumors, including acoustic neuromas and meningiomas.