From PGY1 to PGY2: Expect the unexpected

Residents Corner By Sha-Phawn Williams, PharmD

Even though your PGY1 year has just begun, it won’t be long before you will be recruiting for your replacement and thinking about your post-residency plans. I had known in pharmacy school that I wanted to pursue a PGY2. So I did all I could during my PGY1 year to prepare for the PGY2 application process, interviewing, and ranking. But even though I thought I prepared myself well for the PGY1 to PGY2 transition, I wish I had known a few other things before I started.

Moving can be a headache

As you look at PGY2 sites, consider what the change in geographic location will mean. My PGY1 was located several states away from my PGY2 site. My residency ended on a Friday, and my PGY2 started the following Monday. I thought that I had everything planned for a quick turnaround:

  • Notified my apartment leasing manager that I was moving.
  • Found a new apartment.
  • Forwarded my mail to my new address.
  • Transferred my cable/Internet services.

I even rented a trailer to haul my furniture the several hundred miles from North Carolina to Ohio. The night before my big move, I picked up the moving trailer. After several attempts to attach the trailer to my car’s tow bar, the company representative told me that the tow bar was too rusty. Because it was so late in the day, my options were limited, and I had to leave all my furniture (i.e., bed, couch, dining set) in NC.

Tip: If your PGY2 site is more than a couple hours away from your current location, allow yourself enough time to handle the unexpected.

You will miss your co-residents

You may not know it yet, but your co-residents will be people that you will never forget. I miss my PGY1 co-residents more than I thought I would. I did not expect that a group of nine of my peers would have such an impact on my life.

The day I said my goodbyes, I cried like a baby. Leaving them really solidified that, with a PGY2, my life was changing again. To help ease our aching hearts, we decided that we would attend the APhA Annual Meeting & Exposition each year to reconnect. We also have an active group on Snapchat. On a better note, I have 39 new co-residents. Getting to know these individuals has helped me adapt better to my new surroundings.

Although residency can consume a lot of your energy, it is important to take the time to make new relationships with the people you work with, especially those going through the same experience as you. This will help as you transition into your new position.

Tip: Stay in contact with your PGY1 co-residents, but make time for relationships with your new PGY2 co-residents.

You will need a vacation

Completing a residency is a huge accomplishment! You just spent a year gaining experiences and knowledge equivalent to 3 to 5 years of practice. You will need to take time to do some self-care, rejuvenate, and relax. This will only help you be your best self for the challenges ahead. Communicate your interest in taking a vacation with your residency director and preceptor early in your orientation. Share with them any potential vacation dates. This will also help ease your wariness about requesting time off and will allow them–and you–to plan ahead.

Tip: Don’t neglect yourself. Take time to take care of your own personal needs early in your PGY2 year.

Moral of the story

A PGY1 residency year challenges you in ways you could never expect. You learn to organize, plan, and multi-task. But even the best plans for a successful PGY2 transition can be easily derailed. So expect the unexpected. Be flexible. And be sure to take care of yourself first. Remember, it’s not what you go through but how you go through it that truly counts.