I can remember waiting anxiously on match day; checking the computer every few seconds to see if I matched.
Jodie Barr, DO
I can remember waiting anxiously on match day; checking the computer every few seconds to see if I matched. The results were in… I got in!
Feelings of excitement and accomplishment overwhelmed me. I received hugs from my program director and faculty. After 3 years of residency, and another as chief resident, I was happy to have made everyone proud.
That night, after the excitement waned, a feeling of anxiety set in. Thoughts of moving to a new city 9 hours away from home, along with the fact that I was pregnant with my first child, were a little overwhelming.
Things became very busy and fast paced. I tried to do the best job I could as a chief while I began looking for a place to live and preparing for my first day of fellowship.
Before I knew it, all of our belongings were loaded into a truck and my new endeavor was beginning, ready or not. I felt a multitude of emotions as my husband and I pulled away from our home with a 2-month-old child, our Boston terrier, and Grandma and Grandpa, who thankfully helped us move. I felt torn as I considered leaving with the first grandchild in my family in 19 years and pursuing my dream that I had worked so hard for. Thinking, though, of the incredible opportunity that I would pursue kept me going through that long drive.
During my first day of fellowship, I thought that I was having palpitations as I walked into the cancer center. So many things were going through my mind.
“Wow this is so cool that I’m here! What will my colleagues be like? Will I be able to live up to the expectations set by the program? I already miss my little one!”
As I walked into the conference room, I was welcomed by my colleagues and program director.
This eased my fears a bit. Orientation went smoothly and I thought to myself, “OK, I can do this. No problem.” But then, the palpitations came back. I was told by the chief fellow that I had to go see consults on my first day, and then I had to attend my first continuity clinic. My pager started to beep! Three new consults. After a deep breath I thought, “Well, here we go!” I worked my way through the consults as best as I could and then headed to clinic.
My first patient in clinic was an incredible gentleman with extensive-stage small cell lung cancer. Once again, I felt those palpitations as I walked into the exam room. I thought, “Please don’t ask me anything! Or maybe just ask me something internal medicine—related…I can answer those questions.” After speaking with my patient and meeting with his incredible family, I felt a comfort knowing that I had made the right decision.
So, I made it through the first week. Then through the first 2 months. After this came the call for a bone marrow biopsy. I had practiced a few as a resident, but was definitely not confident in my skills. Again came those palpitations. I was very fortunate as the gentleman that I was to do the biopsy on had had several prior. He practically talked me through the procedure. Meeting this amazing gentleman reminded me again that I was in the right field.
I was finally in the groove of things when my first call came along. I thought, “No problem, I can handle this.” After 3 years of internal medicine residency I thought I was a pro. Well, I was wrong. Call-in fellowship was much different. Taking calls from home was a whole new ball game. I felt scared out of my wits, especially receiving calls from patients that were incredibly sick. Each time, I hoped I had made the best decision for the patient. I probably drove my fellow colleagues and attendings crazy with questions. Although I have slowly gained confidence in my decisions, I admit that I still need some help here and there.
After all of these firsts, I have learned a few things that have helped me through each situation. Here are a few tips for getting through your first 6 months of fellowship:
All in all, my first 6 months of fellowship have been a whirlwind of emotions. From learning how to balance work and family, especially with a new little girl—to learning what a specific translocation for acute myeloid leukemia means for prognosis—to supporting my patients through the most difficult time they have ever faced—it has been an incredible journey thus far. I wouldn’t have asked for any career path other than this!
Jodie Barr, DO, is currently a fellow at University of Kansas Medical Center.