7 habits for the highly exhausted intern

by Christina on April 16, 2012

I’d really like to see a study looking at markers of wellness pre and post residency: BMI? Vitamin D level? Cholesterol? Telomere length? Depression score?

You’d think we’d do a better job at keeping our doctors-in-training healthy, but it’s surprisingly hard to do in the hospital. Most of my year has spent on the hospital wards, so I’ve had a lot of practice failing trying.

As I finally enter my last week of adult inpatient medicine as an intern (!!!!!), here are 7 habits I’ve been working on in my highly exhausted state:

1. Wake up for pre-dawn exercise.

It’s hard to get into the habit, but once you do it’s truly morning gold. The latest addition has been having my co-intern come over at 5am to practice with me  — preheating the kitchen, making some quick via, and lining up mat to mat, then heading to the hospital to pre-round.

2. Clip on the pedometer.

This has become a fun game with myself — how many miles will I walk today?!

If we had electronic systems we could simply click a button, but in our special system we get to run to the floor, write the order in the paper chart, and flag it in the chart for the nurse to input into the system. Ahh the inefficiencies, but at least we interns get some exercise.

I’ve been ranging on average between 3 and 5 miles per day, not bad. If only it somehow could count the non-accelerating hours when we’re standing our feet rounding.

BTW, Nike fitness is great and you can get the pedometer function on your iphone.

3. Can I have oatmeal please?

The home fries and waffles with strawberry syrup are oh-so-tempting, but the oatmeal is what I now ask for. Filling and energizing.

Every cafeteria has oatmeal, right? I never really liked oatmeal too much, so my challenge has been making it taste good without adding a pile of brown sugar. Yogurt with mushed banana and raisins actually trumps brown sugar:

Even better, I started bringing along full-fat greek yogurt from home mixed with chia seeds, cacao nubs, and goji berries.

4. Drink more water.

One of my rookie mistakes was not going to the bathroom while in the hospital. Solutions:

  • Chug water before the day starts
  • Keep a water bottle in my white coat pocket
  • Get sparkling water with ice from the soda machine
  • Bring teabags and keep refilling with hot water. (And what is it with this tea?! I’ve started supplying it for others):

5. Find an energizing lunch.

We get $23/day for food in our hospital cafeteria, but totally not worth it if it means we drink soda and eat french fries and pizza.

As I mentioned here, I’ve been working on my 3-step lunch amalgamation process: 1) hot vegetables/ beans, 2) pre-packaged salad, 3) mix all together. It always is delicious, fibrous, filling, and doesn’t put me into a post lunch coma.

(warm quinoa and beans under there)

(potatoes and broccoli under this one)

(garbanzo bean stew under that)

6. Nibble on dark chocolate.

I used to do an afternoon coffee to get through the day, but found it didn’t really well in my stomach which was working on digesting lunch, and then would interfer with my sleep later that night.

Dark chocolate snacks have solved that problem and are now an essential supply in my cubby:

(here's a new favorite, but any kind with >60% chocolate will do)

7. Green-loading once home.

I never thought about how few dark leafy greens I ate until I actually thought about it. I’ve been trying to make up for it with a heaping pile when I get home:

(sauteed kale, swiss chard, collard greens, which in one minute will be mixed with tofu/egg)

Followed by some much needed comfort food – chia seed pudding with a dollop of greek yogurt:

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Jen April 16, 2012 at 1:37 am

As a highly exhausted peds intern, I appreciate these tips! So glad I found a blog I can relate to!


Christina April 16, 2012 at 1:38 am

aww yay! so nice to hear from you!! where are you for residency?!


anar April 16, 2012 at 6:44 pm

great post!

I was just reading a similar post on KevinMd (http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2012/04/tips-fight-depression-medical-residency.html)

– BTW I can’t believe your hospital uses written orders!!!


Chris Palmer April 16, 2012 at 10:10 pm

This blog post is wonderfully inspiring! You are a model for other interns!


Steve April 22, 2012 at 1:27 am

I was just thinking about this the other day as another banner example of the paradox that is our profession. Why would you make heathcare providers train in such an unhealthy way?


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