The saying 'bloom where you have been planted' never really applied to me. As much as I am grateful for the initial ground where I got the chance to grow, there's nothing I love more than the rush of discovering unknown territory.
If there's anything I learned during these first two years as a derm resident, it's that nothing is more important than to have been employed in as many places as possible. I've always been thrilled ever since the beginning of my residency, knowing I'd be traveling from hospital to hospital, from city to city, for the next 18 months.
My residency plan involved 6 months of working in a local hospital and private practice on almost the other side of the country, in a small city I had almost never heard of. You can imagine that, despite my neverending enthusiasm, I was a bit skeptical at first. Afterwards, I was placed in 2 French-speaking hospitals in 2 different municipalities of our capital city for one year in total. Currently, I'm finishing off the last 2 months of this journey in the notorious Saint-Pierre hospital in the heart of Brussels.
Eighteen months, three hospitals, one private practice and a ton of memories later, I can say that it all turned out well. In fact, I couldn't look back at this period of my life with a warmer heart. Here are 10 things I experienced during my nomadic resident life and that I didn't want to keep from you:
1. First thing I learned is self-determination. Trust me when I say that you rely on yourself, and solely yourself, if you want amazing things to happen to you. You really make or break the situation you are currently in by the mindset and behaviour you display.
2. Confidence. You'll discover that you're capable of more than you thought you were from spending time on your own. Getting out of your comfort zone forces you to act -maybe it works out, maybe it won't- but in the end in one way or another, you'll always win regardless the outcome.
3. Introspection. Living the 'nomadic resident' existence, helps you understand life, your true self and your needs on a deeper emotional level. Undoubtedly confronting at some times, but there's nothing that makes you grow up more. So far I gained the most knowledge about myself and how others see me during this period in my life.
4. If you manage the power of flexibility, you're going places. Being flexible in any kind of situation doens't only enhance your resilience, but the people around you will notice you're in control as well. And what you radiate, you also attract. Entirely aside, I find that flexibility goes hand in hand with having more fun no matter the odds.
5. Curiosity for other places and certain modi operandi, how trivial they initially may seem, makes you richer in a way no money ever can. You don't need to remember or know everything. As long as you stay curious, you get motivated, and so the road to happiness and success will be open.
6. Growing up and moving around, away from family or friends, comes with disappointments and change of perspectives. At one point last year, I was having a very difficult time, to an extent I had never really experienced before. It had to do with conflicts within my family and with a friend within my close circle. Although it took me a long time to process everything, until not too long ago, I am happy with how everything turned out in the end. After confronting the individuals in question and being transparent about how we each experienced the situation, I learned to set my boundaries clearly. The result, so far, is that I have a clearer understanding with them. Honesty always lasts the longest. ♥
7. You make connections and network so much quicker. By not being held by the hand, you dare to speak up, show who you are and ask for more. Because if you don't, don't expect anyone to do it for you. This is how for example, I managed to get invited at an international congress, normally only reserved for derms who finished their residency, or who are at least more advanced in their formation than I am. I met so many interesting people and lived extraordinary encounters I could only dream of in the past.
8. Openness: I thought I was an open-minded person before I began residency, turns out it was not so much the case. To be honest I didn't have the slightest clue of what life was like for some people. The past 18 months, I came in contact with every rank of the socio-cultural ladder: the super rich, the very poor, people who's intelligence was equivalent to Einstein's, people gifted with practical skills, patients from all kinds of religions and countries,... I truly could go and on and on and on. I am grateful to be someone who can easily deal with every kind of person, being convinced of the fact that we can learn so much from one another, and I think that I grew in that perspective.
9. Multilingualism: In my opinion, it is so badly underestimated how much more we could accomplish if everyone had at least basic knowledge of some other languages. A full year's work in a French-speaking, but also multicultural hospital receiving patients from all kinds of nationalities and cultures, enabled me to improve my language skills, which I will carry with me into my professional and private life. I have always found it extremely important to be able to make yourself clear in multiple languages. When I initially didn't get accepted for Dermatology residency in Belgium, I considered an assistantship in Germany, and went through all the necessary language tests. Another nomad part of my life that proves you can do anything you set your mind to!
10. Appreciation. Gratitude for the little things that aren't obvious to everyone. Since I've been hanging in and around hospitals for years now -if not as a resident it was as a student or intern- I've always had notion of how nothing compares to good health. Now that I have been able to observe different types of hospitals and different aspects of the lives of people from all types of backgrounds with my own eyes, my appreciation for the things I'm able to do has expanded even more.
Understanding the existence of our differences is distinct from witnessing it directly. Even though we may speak different languages and do things differently, the why of what we do is universal. Being a nomadic resident, I had the chance to see how people interact and work differently, on their own or as a team. This has taught me so much on a personal and professional level. I am convinced that the more one sees, the better formed one becomes as a person as a whole. I am grateful that I was allowed to experience these wonderful 18 months and will keep in mind all the things I have learned to be the best possible doctor who keeps his gaze at all times not only critical, but most of all open.
♥ Dress & Kimono: C'est Interdit
♥ Pictures by Annelies Schrevens