Hey Residents! This month, we chatted with Dr. Mikaela Peters, PGY-2 Orthopadeic Surgery Resident. Dr. Peters was happy to talk to us about her experience balancing pregnancy and residency, preparing for parenthood, and starting a UBC Medicine Climbing Club to help introduce residents to the sport.
You’ve mentioned that you are passionate about the outdoors, and have done hikes such as the North Coast trails, the Gold Rush Trail, and canoed the Yukon Rivers and cycle toured in Quebec. Could you tell me more about your favourite trip, and what drives you to go out there and explore what Canada has to offer?
I’ve done a lot of fun trips, but the Cape Scott Park and the North Coast Trail was my favorite. It’s a 76 km rugged coastal rainforest backcountry trail accessed via boat from Port Hardy on the northern tip of Vancouver Island. It was the most difficult hike I’ve ever done. It’s a chance to escape from technology and push myself to my limit, relying on myself and my hiking partners to overcome any challenges that arise. I enjoy the teamwork and camaraderie that comes with slogging through endless pits of mud in the rain, scrambling over slippery tree roots and slogging through deep sand. Getting out into nature and unplugging from technology for extended periods of time is one of my favourite forms of self care. It rejuvenates me mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, and I believe that it enables me to be a better partner, doctor, and friend when I get home.
You co-founded the UBC Medicine Climbing Club, where you helped introduce medical students to both outdoor and indoor climbing, and have also done annual week-long backcountry trips with several fellow residents. Do you have any tips on getting involved and out there for residents who interested in the outdoors, but are hesitant to start?
I know that when I first started climbing, I found it a bit intimidating. All of a sudden I was in an environment with real safety risks, and I had no idea what the terminology meant, let alone what was going on! I would highly recommend taking a class or joining a group that targets beginners for anyone who is looking to get into outdoor pursuits. Even seemingly simple activities like hiking come with risk, and you want to have mentors who will teach you how to minimize that risk. Not to mention that it’s a great way to make friends outside of medicine! The Alpine Club of Canada has chapters all over the country and is a great place to start. They have regular intro activities, and there are lots of experienced outdoor enthusiasts who are keen to introduce newbies to the great outdoors!
At RDBC, we get a lot of residents inquiring about pregnancy and parenthood during residency. As someone who is expecting your first child in December, could you tell me a bit about your experience so far, balancing residency and pregnancy? What are some of the challenges you’ve faced, resources you’ve found useful—those kinds of things?
I have to say, balancing pregnancy and a busy surgical residency is no walk in the park. Although the baby has been doing great the whole time, this has not been an easy pregnancy on me, between continued morning sickness into the third trimester, a tendency towards syncope in the OR, and the normal aches and pains of pregnancy. I am incredibly fortunate that my program has been very supportive during my pregnancy and has worked with me to find ways to maximize my learning while minimizing impact on service. I had to go off call quite suddenly much earlier than expected and my co-residents cheerfully covered for me. It’s hard to admit that I have significant limitations because of my pregnancy, but my colleagues have been very understanding and supportive when I have open communication and ask for help. Finding a healthcare provider that I trust and that understands the intricacies and realities of surgical residency has also been key for me in finding ways to adapt to my limitations. Finally, there is no way that I could be doing all this without my amazing husband, who has taken over all of the household tasks and encourages me to put my feet up and rest when I come home at the end of the day!
As we conclude the interview, do you have any advice to offer those who are considering pregnancy and parenthood during residency?
Ask me in a year! I have no comments about parenthood yet, but I would encourage anyone thinking about pregnancy in residency to consider the supports they have available before embarking on this journey. There is no way that I could do this without my community helping out with both work and home life, and a partner who is 100% on board. Talk to your program director as early as you are comfortable, both for your sake and theirs. Remember that there are UBC guidelines that offer suggestions for work restrictions for pregnant residents, but ultimately any limitations or suggestions from your OB supersede these guideline- each pregnancy is different. Most importantly, if this is something you decide to do, you can do it!