A Day in the Life of a Pediatrics Resident

A woman holding a child, she sits on a chair and wears a face mask

The day starts at 5 a.m. when my alarm goes off. Usually I press snooze and try to convince my body that it’s time to face the music and wake up regardless of how good my bed feels. I drift back into sleep but five minutes later my second alarm goes off. In a brief moment of panic, I realize I actually have to get out of bed now or I will be late. I grudgingly drag myself out of bed and waddle my way to the kitchen to put on coffee. By 5:25 a.m. I am on my way to the hospital, which is a less than 7-minute drive away.

I sit in the Fellow’s Room and finish my coffee as I go over the patient list and organize myself for 6 a.m. sign out. I pre-round on my babies checking input and output; vitals; medications; overnight alarms; ventilatory settings; abdominal girths and any overnight imaging or consults. Today is my turn with the high-risk pager so I know I have to be super-efficient in the event I get called for a delivery. I take sign out from my co-resident and by 6:30 a.m. I am walking around the unit checking in on my assigned four to five babies with the overnight nurse before their sign out at 7 a.m. to see if there is anything that they were particularly concerned about. I say my babies as I truly take responsibility for them; I think we all do; it is inevitable. You see these babies most times from the time of their deliveries, on their good days and not so good days, you break good and not so good news to anxious parents; provide daily updates while listening to their fears and concerns. Learning with each encounter how to provide the calming reassurance that they need.

By 7:30 a.m. one of us on the team of residents rotating in the NICU steal away to get coffee or Pastelitos for the team at our Cuban Café to give us that extra jolt we need to kickstart our day. I think NICU is one of those rotations where having a good team makes all the difference. There are moments when it gets emotionally tough when one of our babies isn’t doing well and we have to have difficult conversations with parents. Having a team such as ours that just gels as we genuinely love and support each other is like getting a big hug right when you need it.

By 7:45 a.m. the fellows have taken their sign out from the overnight fellow and quickly run the list with us to see if there are any concerns with the babies before rounds at 8 a.m. Our attending walks in a little before rounds and beckons to us to come to the Fellow’s Room as they have treats — chocolate from a recent trip. Yum! Rounds kicks off by 8:05 a.m. and we spend 10-15 minutes on each patient, discussing overnight events and today’s targets. There are multiple teaching points throughout rounds that make for stimulating discussions and it is always great when medical students join us so we can attempt to woo them to pediatrics.

As we are finishing up rounds, we get a call from the labor and delivery suite that we are expecting a premature baby within the next hour or so. At times we have surprises and all our pagers go off and those of us assigned to deliveries rush to the location while the rest stay behind and set up for the new patient. In the delivery room we coordinate roles and prepare for this new life that is about to say “Hello World.’’ The baby is successfully resuscitated and admitted to the NICU if they met the assigned criteria for admission. In the event we decide to intubate the baby for ventilatory support and place umbilical central lines the ARNP; the respiratory therapist; the fellow and nurses then assist me in getting everything needed for the procedure. I feel a little nervous but also calmly excited. I love doing procedures and having a full team here to support me if there are any difficulties is reassuring.

By the time we are finished it’s a little after lunch time. One of my co-residents grabbed me some food from the cafeteria while I was doing the procedure and we head downstairs to eat outside for 30- 40 minutes while the fellow or ARNP covers our pagers. The rest of my day usually involves updating parents, finishing up notes, ensuring orders made on rounds were done and following up results and consults. Today is my short day so I sign out at 4 p.m. and finalize plans to head to South Beach, which is 12 minutes away, to meet up with friends for a spin class and dinner after. We usually hang out until around 7:30 p.m. then we head home as most of us have an early start in the morning. On my drive home on this summer night I feel blessed to be able to catch the sunset as it hits the water – I reflect on where I am and I feel satisfied that this place is my home away from home and these people are my family while away from family.

Shanique Sterling is a Pediatrics resident.