A Day in the Life of a PGY-2 Resident


My background

Hi! My name is Erin, and I am a second year psychiatry resident at Yale. I grew up in rural upstate NY (Ithaca is Gorges!) and attended Smith College in Northampton, Mass. When I was 11 years old, my mother, a then labor-and-delivery nurse, let me shadow her at work for a day. I was immediately fascinated by all aspects of the birth process- from the incredible transformation that happens at a biological level to the complex interactions between hormones, cognition and emotion that influence the experience of the individual. Wanting to learn more about the way the body impacts the mind (and vice versa), as well as a seemingly equally weighted interests in the fields of obstetrics and psychiatry (influenced in no small way by a chronic difficulty in making decisions), helped define my career path. After college I worked as a doula (a labor coach), and got my feet wet in research studying fMRI in pharmacologic studies and psychiatric disorders at McLean Hospital. I attended medical school at the University of Massachusetts, and completed a residency in ob/gyn at Christiana Care Health System in Newark, Del. I knew throughout medical school and residency that I wanted to find a way to focus on pregnancies impacted by mood disorders, and to study the mechanisms behind mental health disorders influenced by the hormones of female reproduction, such as PMDD, postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis. I was torn between a fellowship in Maternal Fetal Medicine and a second residency in psychiatry, and I ultimately decided that taking the opportunity to train in psychiatry represented the best fit for someone wanting to focus on the interface between the body and the brain. I started at Yale as a second year resident (they call me a “new two”) in July of 2016!

Why I Chose Yale

Coming into psychiatry after a previous residency is somewhat different from entering residency after medical school. There are several programs throughout the country that offer dedicated second year positions for transfers from other schools or other specialties, Yale being one of them. I was hoping to enter as a second year; one internship was plenty for me! I knew coming in that Yale had amazing research resources and many investigators pursuing questions I was interested in surrounding the biologic basis of psychiatric diseases. Specifically, some of the top reproductive psychiatry research in the country is conducted right here at Yale. I was delighted to be invited to interview, but I left my interview day truly blown away by the program. The kindness of everyone I met, from the other residents to the staff to the program directors, was amazing (and has not changed one iota since I started here; this is a residency filled with some of the happiest people working in the medical field that I’ve ever met). The residents had enough independence to pursue their own individual goals, and were supported by a structure of didactics that was comprehensive and meticulously planned by program directors sincerely invested in education. Plus the campus is beautiful and the food trucks outside the hospital meant I’d never have to get sick of hospital cafeteria food again!

My Schedule

As a transfer from another specialty, I have to make up some of the requirements that my co-residents took care of during their first year. Most second year residents have three months of elective, called CASE, but because I missed roughly six months of required rotations, I will be working on inpatient floors for my entire second year. Right now I spend my days at the Connecticut Mental Health Center, where I work with long-term inpatients from about 8 am to 5 pm. I have the opportunity to develop longitudinal relationships with patients due to the length of my rotations (three months at each site) and the general length of the patients’ stays, and it’s been extremely rewarding to help some gravely ill individuals transition back into the community and eventually discharge. There’s really no feeling like it. I am also getting a jump-start on my therapy skills with weekly supervision in both CBT and psychodynamic psychotherapy, and I have regular therapy sessions with my longer term patients. I take call roughly once per week at one of two sites. There is no dedicated night float during second year and most of my weekends are free, which is a refreshing change from the world of ob/gyn!

Life as a Second Year Resident

Being a second year resident as a transfer has been a wonderful experience so far. I worried initially that I would be inexperienced compared to my co-residents, which was certainly true at first, but there is a ton of support and ample learning opportunities offered. Although we function independently to a great extent, particularly during call, we are always aware of the resources we have in case of emergency and our warm upper year residents and attendings make sure that we know no one is ever expected to take on more than they can handle or worry alone. I probably call the overnight attendings more often than my co-residents, and they’ve been unfailingly courteous and dedicated to teaching, even at 3 am. I’m learning a lot and trying to take advantage of all the opportunities offered, but there is never enough time in the day to attend all the interesting activities, lectures, group meetings and social activities! The Yale psychiatry department is incredibly active, and I feel so lucky to be a part of it.

Where I Live

My husband and I rent a house in the Mt. Carmel area of Hamden, close to Sleeping Giant State Park. It’s a very quiet suburban neighborhood with lots of gardens and big back yards, and my commute in to work is about a half hour.

My Favorite New Haven Restaurants and Cultural Activities

Being a little outside of New Haven, I’ll put a plug in for our favorite restaurant- Sushi Palace- in Hamden. It’s $25 for incredible all you can eat sushi. Not sure how the place stays in business, but make sure to check it out.

Final Thoughts

Training in psychiatry at Yale provides both a solid base and the opportunity for investigation into any number of unique interests. We are encouraged to dive into research and therapy, and to take our education in any direction we desire. But the community, from the co-residents to the faculty to the mentors, is what makes Yale truly unique and such a rewarding place to be. I’ve been welcomed and helped to transition from someone with little background in psychiatry to a thriving second year resident in less than three months. No matter how you find your way to Yale, I’m confident that you’ll be glad you’re here.