HERstory: Dr. Erin Duffy
Erin Duffy is a PGY-2 at Stony Brook Emergency Medicine Residency program. She has been a rockstar clinically, earning her the title of Intern of the Year! We sat down with Erin to learn more about her and her path to becoming an emergency medicine resident.
Why did you decide to go into Emergency Medicine?
I like the pace, it’s fast and you’re able to see different things every day. There’s a good mix of easy chief complaints with clear plans and easy dispositions and then sick patients as well. I think it’s also very subjective, when I’m in ED I enjoy being there and it’s been further solidified by off service rotations where I’m wanting to go back to the ED.
Do you feel like you personally throughout your experience within the medical system from student to now resident have ever been treated differently because you were a female?
It’s something that is always in the back of my mind. More or less it is something that generally comes from patients, you introduce yourself as a doctor, go through the entire treatment plan and when you’re leaving the room they still think they haven’t seen a doctor yet. From the other side amongst my peers I haven’t experienced sexism. I’m sure it’s there and under the cuff within all of our interactions because people have their own inherent biases but really if I have felt it it has been more on the patient side.
One thing that comes to mind is not where I was treated differently because I was female but I acted differently because I was afraid of being judged for being a mother. I tried to hide my pregnancy during my audition rotations and then tried to hide the fact that I was breastfeeding during interview season. I didn’t want anyone to know I was a mom because of the possibility that it could be seen as a negative throughout the residency interview process.
For me at the end of the day I’m tired, exhausted, and can go home and not have to worry about anyone else but you’re a mom, how do you feel your experience within residency is different or any sort of unique challenges you face as a mom?
It’s challenging. When I do go home I get a lot of enjoyment, satisfaction and distraction from the medical world by being with my son. He is super fun. But there is no down time. The last time I went home and was able to sit down and have a cup of coffee without something tugging at my leg was at a minimum a month ago. It is very difficult to do anything on your own. I think as long as what is taking up your time at home is enjoyable then it's a doable balance. I think as a mom it makes a very set dichotomy, when you’re at work you’re at work and when you’re home you’re enjoying your time with your family.
Do you feel like because of our crazy schedule as residents and the fact that we have a very demanding job that the balance between work and home is uneven and home life suffers?
To a degree yes. I know my husband would love to travel more which unfortunately with our schedule we are unable to do. I went into residency knowing I was going to try to prioritize my family and I feel like if anything I sacrifice the social life I would have with work so that I can prioritize family life. But it does make decisions difficult, I have one baby and would like to have two and with our schedule it does make planning something like this difficult.
Two babies….are you thinking of possibly becoming pregnant during residency? What sort of challenges do you think you would face?
I think being pregnant during residency is possibly harder than being a mom during residency. You’re so tired when you're pregnant, so, so tired. Then residency on its own already makes you tired, combining the two I can’t even imagine. And then you have to worry about all of the health stuff, we’re exposed to many things here that are not good for pregnancy. You walk into a patient’s room complaining of back pain and suddenly you’re exposed to Shingles and you’re pregnant.
What kind of advice would you give to women who are interested in pursuing emergency medicine but also having a family at the same time?
I think it depends on people’s goals. If you want to be a mom who has a great relationship with their kid and is there to play and be present but also be a doctor that's competent I think that’s totally possible. If you go into this thinking you’re going to be able to go to every school event and be at every social or academic event, I think you’re going to be disappointed. Managing expectations before you go into this is really important. But it is certainly possible to have both and be satisfied with both parts of your life.
How do you find the time to balance your work needs, home needs and your own personal needs?
I don’t think that really happens [laughing]. I go home and I have to take care of my kid, and when I’m here I have to work. Then I spend time with my husband. The idea of actually having down time or working out or taking time to meal prep, I definitely sacrifice that. I am surprised about the amount of quality time I have had to spend with my family. I guess the sacrifice comes from the time you don’t even realize you’re wasting. It's the couch time and Facebook time and Netflix time, things that in the long run don’t actually make you happy. When these things are taken away you have more time than you realize.
You clearly have your plate full, but that didn’t seem to stop you from crushing it intern year as you were nominated by your peers as intern of the year, what advice would you pass on to our incoming interns?
Have a good attitude and be professional. Offer to help other people when you have a chance, and be genuine about it. There are always going to be times when you don't know the answer, have to ask for help, or make a mistake. A lot of the time that is out of your control. But you can control how you treat other people, and people remember that
If you could go back to intern year is there anything you would do differently?
Maybe in the beginning not worry so much. I used to worry about things that I realize now didn’t really matter. I worried a lot about gaps in knowledge in critical care, and that I wouldn't be able to master certain procedural skills. Now I see that we weren't expected to perform at that higher level right from the very beginning. I still worry about things this year but I'm realizing that the skills I need will come with time.
Erin Duffy, MD is a PGY-2 Resident at Stony Brook Emergency Medicine.
Amanda Correia, DO is a PGY-2 Resident at Stony Brook Emergency Medicine.