A Challenging Field
It’s no secret that interventional cardiology training is difficult. The journey begins with trying to be the best medical trainee, followed by investing significant time in basic and clinical research, and then spending hours learning the art of cardiology. The road is long, arduous, and often exhausting, and on top of our professional learning experiences, we have personal lives that cannot be forgotten.
Most interventional fellows have reached a point in their lives when their decisions have an impact on more than themselves. In fact, the whole process of applying for fellowship is likely to be determined by family preferences— job opportunities for spouses, schooling for children, nearness to extended family, or inclination to a particular type of weather are all of indisputable importance.
For fellows who do their interventional training at a different institution than where they complete their general fellowship, the transition is a bit harder. There is the stress of relocating to a new city and searching for a new, kid-friendly, and safe home—that also happens to be located near the hospital to allow for timely reply to STEMI calls. Then begins the adjustment period of learning the ins and outs of a new workplace, figuring out the computer system, and building rapport with the attendings. A fellow who transitions to a new institution spends the first few weeks in a haze of confusion while trying to adapt to the logistics of a new environment and keep up with his or her medical learning. Additionally, as an unknown commodity in the cath lab, each move a new fellow makes is scrutinized by everyone.
Like many other procedural fields, the long and unpredictable hours of interventional cardiology can limit free time to holidays and certain weekends. As such, fellows can often feel further dissociated from family and friends who have more flexible schedules. Maintaining the balance between family and academic work is very difficult, and this effort needs to be appropriately managed to avoid undue stress.
The final, and potentially hardest, challenge of interventional fellowship is what we’ve all been working toward: finding a job! During medical training, we are sheltered from the traditional job searches our peers in other professional fields have been slogging through for years. The current restricted job market with limited pay and benefit options seems like an especially hard blow to a new physician who has toiled for more than a decade in training. The last thing anyone wants is the demoralizing choice of taking a job away from their family, but for some this is the only option.
So how can we face these challenges without losing our minds? After all, we did sign up for this! Mastering the art of time management has been key for me. With a demanding field like interventional cardiology, we need to ingrain organization and schedule planning into our minds. Also, it is important to carve out some personal time to do whatever it is that makes you happy and healthy despite the unmodifiable stressors associated with training. Staggering vacation time throughout the year can also help in maintaining physical and mental equilibrium during training and beyond. Identifying and working closely with a mentor to define your career path can help you accomplish your goals in a more efficient manner. Finally, know that it’s never too early to start looking for jobs. Building a strong professional network and being active in professional societies can help an individual analyze the job market in a more efficient manner.