Cardiology fellowship comes at you fast. Within the first day, you realize how much nuance exists within the field that you hadn’t been exposed to in internal medicine, and there are lots of patients whose care depends on those details. At the same time, you quickly come to appreciate how much of an impact you can make on a patient’s health and just how rewarding the field is. it’s a beautiful journey! In thinking back on the last two years, I wanted to share my top 10 tips and insights on fellowship aimed at incoming fellows.
- Learn from everyone. Nurses, techs, the cath lab team, sonographers, any staff with any clinical experience. There is often a sense you get when things aren’t right, and it takes a while to learn. These folks have developed it.
- It will take you at least 6 months to start to feel somewhat comfortable, a year before you think you got a hang of things, and that’s normal.
- Ask for help often. Key resources: senior fellows. They know everything, or they know who does.
- When you are on call, you are never alone. Get in the habit of communicating with your attending, even in the middle of the night. It’s the best thing for patient safety and your learning, and the attendings want it too.
- “Don’t guess when you can know.” The credit for the quote goes to Dr. Neil Stone, but the point is to get all the information you need (safely) and double-check the basics. The stakes are high in cardiology, so do the little things that prevent errors.
- Stay well outside of work. Family, friends, exercise, sleep, hobbies, whatever makes you you. These things are never more important than now. Burnout is real, prevalent, and painful.
- Meaningful learning happens through rote repetition in cardiology. Whether it’s in the cath lab or on echo, you will make insights through monotonous reps of seemingly routine studies/cases that you can’t make through any other means. Show up and dive in.
- It may take you a while to have the bandwidth to delve into academic pursuits outside of “just being a fellow” – that’s okay. Fellowship is hard.
- Recognize sick from not sick, and if someone is sick, move fast.
- When you consent a patient for a procedure, know the facts, and tell them. There is no such thing as a no-risk procedure. I will never forget this, after being involved in a case of a PA rupture during a straightforward right heart cath leading to a cardiac arrest. Make sure they know what they are signing up and consent is truly informed.
I would recommend going into cardiology to those who are interested 10 times out of 10. Congrats to those just starting out! I hope this list gives some pointers that help as you embark on your own journey in the field.
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Baljash Cheema is a second-year cardiology fellow at Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois. While he has loved his experience in all aspects of cardiovascular medicine, he plans to specialize in advanced heart failure and transplant and care for our sickest. He has a particular interest in improving patient care using machine learning and artificial intelligence. When he isn’t in the hospital, he enjoys spending time with his family and friends and watching sports with his wife. Follow him on twitter: @JCheemaMD