January 11, 2022, 1:30 p.m. — I am not going to sugar coat it: Residency is hard. And when life gets hard, sometimes you just have to laugh.
During one of my first deliveries as a resident, I barely made it into the room on time. I had my gown and gloves laid out on the table, but something about being in that moment caused me to forget how to put it all on. As the baby was crowning, I was still struggling with my gloves.
The nurse called out, “Come on, Doc, the kid is gonna be in kindergarten by the time you get those gloves on.”
This made me chuckle, and all my anxiety went away. I was able to put the gloves on in time to deliver a healthy baby. I’m sure you also have had similar experiences where you just had to laugh at yourself and move forward.
Last fall, the AAFP launched a series of livestream events for resident members. In a recent event that I hosted with Will Flanary, M.D. — the ophthalmologist, writer and comedian better known to his Twitter and TikTok followers as Dr. Glaucomflecken — he said his approach to a challenge is this: “If I don’t turn it into a joke, it will destroy me.”
Flanary, whose blend of humor and education has earned him more than 1.5 million followers on social media, emphasized that self-expression is a good thing, and it’s important to find and maintain a balance between self-expression and professionalism.
I was reminded that as a medical student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, we had a yearly event hosted by students hosted called “The Best Medicine Show,” which was a great outlet to express ourselves and laugh at the struggles of medical school. From song parodies to poking fun of our beloved professors, this event was something we looked forward to every year, and it also served as a great fundraiser for our student-run free clinic.
In our livestream, Flanary discussed how his experience as a patient with cancer made him realize that he wanted his own doctor to “seem like a real person,” one he could joke around with.
That kind of self-expression is something I have struggled with throughout medical school and residency. There have been multiple times that I have wanted to share a funny story about my day on social media, but I always talked myself out of it because I was afraid it would be inappropriate. Flanary discussed in our livestream how to avoid getting reprimanded. Some of his suggestions included: know your audience, “punch up, not down,” avoid HIPAA violations and make fun of yourself. He truly challenged me to post more of the things I have been thinking about but had doubts about sharing.
If you missed the livestream, you can still watch a recorded version of Dr. Flanary’s presentation, which offers great tips about how to use social media in medicine.
Also, mark your calendar for the next episode in the resident livestream series. At 4:30 p.m. CT on Jan. 20, we will talk about negotiating contracts with Ericka Adler, J.D., L.L.M. You can submit questions in advance.
Amanda Stisher, M.D., is the resident member of the AAFP Board of Directors.