Surviving Your First Year of PCCM/Sleep Fellowship

July 11, 2016

This post is a part of our Life as a Fellow blog post series. This series includes "fellow life lessons" from current trainees in leadership with CHEST.

The first year of my PCCM fellowship was extremely exciting and at times, truly, emotionally draining. The transition of becoming a fellow will be an arduous task in the beginning. There will be very early mornings and extremely late evenings. At most programs the first year is typically front loaded with clinical rotations such as ICU and consults with little opportunity for research during this time. However, as the months started flying by, I remember how my knowledge expanded and I began to realize there is nothing more rewarding than a PCCM fellowship.

There will be an evolution from being unsure about your decisions to becoming a multi-tasking, confident, and skilled fellow. Take the opportunity to learn from your senior fellows by asking to observe and assist with procedures. Even though there will be evenings you will be exhausted from the days laborious work just remember to challenge yourself and read about the different diagnoses you observed from that day. Attempt to be as efficient as possible writing consult and procedure notes. There will be a special bond that develops between you and the other co-fellows in your fellowship class. Attempt to foster this bond as much as possible as you will rely on them for guidance and support. I still today keep in close contact with the fellows from my class

Now, I have transitioned into a Sleep medicine fellowship and a new journey begins. Once again, the first few months were challenging, as I had to learn a new sub-specialty. I felt like I had to start from ground zero by learning to interpret sleep stages and studies. This was unchartered territory for me. Nonetheless, as time has passed I have been able to improve this skill and have gained confidence as well. The Sleep fellowship has definitely been a change in pace but I have continued to use my past learning experience from my PCCM fellowship on a daily basis. But as I reflect on the last few months of my fellowship I know I would have not done anything different.

As you embark on this journey just remember that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Some first year fellowship survival suggestions:

  1. Balance work and personal life
  2. Learn something new everyday from your patients
  3. Remember to spend time with family and friends
  4. Attempt to exercise to keep a balanced workload
  5. Be enthusiastic and energetic
  6. Identify a mentor early
  7. Be passionate and sympathetic to patients 
  8. Read about patients and their diseases
  9. Be organized and efficient
  10. Don’t be afraid to ask questions 
  11. Know your limitations
  12. Build relationships with your co-fellows
  13. Learn from your mistakes
  14. Develop a multi-disciplinary approach with nurses and RT
  15. Use your senior fellows as a resource
  16. Minimize stresses outside the hospital
  17. Do tons of questions and take notes

Good luck!

Dr. Usman Nazir is currently a Sleep Fellow at the University of Kansas Medical Center. He graduated from the University of Kansas Medical Center completing his PCCM fellowship in 2015.  He trained in Internal Medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center.  He will be joining faculty at the University of Kansas after completing his Sleep Fellowship.

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