The Biggest Fear Physicians Have Coming Out of Residency


The biggest thing I kept hearing from all of the physicians was the fear of being alone! Dr. Jason Emerson puts it well by saying, “I have been trained well, but can I really do this?” And what exactly is “this”?


Fear of Being Alone

I figured I would write a short blog about this because it is super common to feel this way.  I thought by sharing how other physicians feel, it might make the new graduating residents feel less anxious. Because whether you admit it or not, the fear of truly being on your own is probably somewhere in the back of your mind.


We have been interviewing a lot of doctors for our video courses. At the end of the interview, we like to ask the physicians the same few questions to use in our “Advice by Established Physicians” video. (It’s free by the way.)  You can watch it here, and we are continuing to add to it. One of the questions we ask, is what their biggest fear or concern is coming out of residency. There are two things that we kept hearing from these doctors.


Things are a lot more personal when you are truly on your own and something doesn’t go well. You will have more second guessing yourself. It is normal and common for physicians to feel this way. Eventually, something will go wrong. It is how you handle the situation that will make you a better physician. Dr. Emerson says, “Your natural urgency is to run and go hide if something goes wrong, but failure to communicate is where you are going to get into trouble. This is the time to go talk to the patient and explain why you did what you did. It may not have been the outcome that you wanted, but failure to communicate is where you get into trouble.”


Dr. Zane Uhland says it is good to be nervous about being on your own. You should have a healthy respect for what you are doing. While it is extremely scary to look behind you and realize there is no attending to watch over you, you have to get out there and do it alone at some point. Dr. Uhland also says, “There are only so many fellowships you can do do.”


So, what can you do to make the fear of being alone less scary? For starters, you should find yourself at least one good mentor before you graduate. It is extremely important to have a mentor in medicine.


Check out this article by Ahmed Mian, MD. You want a mentor who you can call and brag about your success, as well as call about any problems you are facing. You want someone who is there to guide you, someone who won’t judge you, and someone who is just there for you.


You may need them them on standby for your first surgery alone, and that is ok. That is what they are there for.  And it is ok to have more than one mentor. Here is another good article on “Why mentors are so important in medicine.”

So, the solution to the fear of being alone is to make sure you have at least one good mentor before you graduate residency. And remember, you aren’t truly alone.


You have peers and mentors who have gone through what you are going through. You aren’t going to learn everything you need to know in 3-5 years of training. You will run into some bazar patients. You will ask yourself, where were these people hiding while you were in residency? But, you know what resources to use to find out the answers. Use your books, the internet, your peers and most importantly your mentors.


If you don’t know any mentors or you haven’t found the one for you, check out our video library full of great mentors. Get Access Now!

Article by Jamie Spann