My anti-burnout recipe: Instant Pot for the Hungry Intern

July 19, 2019

"Fresh out of medical school, I had lofty plans for intern year... Fast forward through orientation, and the ACGME-approved 80-hour work week was quick to remind me of the alternate meaning of the word ‘intern’: to be held prisoner," writes Kiran Sury, MD.

Dr. Sury is a urology resident at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

Fresh out of medical school, I had lofty plans for intern year. I was moving away from my family and friends, and had adopted a new motto: “New city, new me.” I was going to cook every day, work out five times a week, read every issue of The Journal of Urology cover to cover, dust off my guitar and teach myself how to play again, and get a full 8 hours of sleep every night. I had made it through medical school. This was going to be easy.

Fast forward through orientation, and the ACGME-approved 80-hour work week was quick to remind me of the alternate meaning of the word ‘intern’: to be held prisoner. My weights remained untouched, my guitar out of tune, and issues of The Journal of Urology stacked on my kitchen table, as pristine and unworn as my Step 3 review book. The pile of dirty scrubs, however, was plenty worn because it served double duty as my pile of clean scrubs. The majority of my meals consisted of expired Ensure from the hospital nutrition room. Something had to change.

I bought an Instant Pot. For those unaware, the Instant Pot is the latest cooking gadget sensation, a “set-it-and-forget-it” electric pressure cooker that promises fast, one-button meals without the need to stand at the stove for hours. The Internet is full of Instant Pot recipe blogs, each catering to a special niche: Instant Pot for BBQ Lovers, Instant Pot for Vegans, Instant Pot for People Who Mispronounce “Worcestershire.”

I’m thinking about starting my own blog: Instant Pot for the Surgical Intern. I’ve included three test recipes below, with increasing difficulty as you become more comfortable with cooking.

 

July 1st Salsa Chicken

Start intern year full of promise and vigor. Place four frozen chicken breasts in the pot. Spend your first day struggling to write your patient notes. Finish three notes in 4 hours. Follow an attending into the OR, forget to wear a mask. Watch as your sub-interns clearly have better suturing skills than you. Add one jar of salsa and press the poultry button; stand at the counter for the next 20 minutes anxiously watching the countdown timer. This is your first time using it and you don’t want to mess it up. Sigh with relief when it comes out OK. Serve with tortillas.

Continue to the next page for more.Late-Night Steamed Salmon

Copy progress note templates from the second-year residents and finish 20 notes in a few hours. Line the included trivet with foil and place frozen salmon filets on top. Fail your first attempt at a central line. Get called “the nicest intern I have ever met” and “incredibly cruel” in the same week. Fail your second attempt at a central line. Add lemon slices and fresh dill, then steam at high pressure for 8 minutes. Nail your third central line. Maybe you’re starting to get the hang of this whole intern thing. Complete your first overnight call with a rapid response and no sleep. Go home and pass out on the couch. Add pepper. Salt with your tears (to taste).

 

Battle-Scarred Butternut Chipotle Chili

Pre-round efficiently and finish all your notes before the OR opens. Brown some ground turkey using the sauté function. Sprinkle in some competency. Take medical students through closures, marveling at the fact that your hands no longer shake and you know what sutures to ask for. Peel and cube the butternut squash. Watch your patient with acute pancreatitis slowly die over 3 weeks in the surgical ICU; there is nothing you can do for her. Add tomatoes, onions, beans, chicken broth, wine, and half a can of chipotle in adobo sauce. Cook on the chili setting for 20 minutes. Admit a patient from the ED with a straightforward small bowel obstruction. Find out he has metastatic pancreatic cancer with weeks to live, and all he wants is to spend his last Christmas at home with his family. He makes it home on Christmas Eve. Simmer the chili. It is complex, having been flavored by the first 6 months of intern year. Savor the taste; it is salty, spicy, tangy, simultaneously rich and bittersweet.

Some may find it too intense, but I am hungry for more.