Holiday Gifts for Medical Students, Residents, Physicians and Other Busy People


Every year I try to post gift suggestions for the family and friends of people in medicine (and all other busy professions).  Here are this year’s suggestions!

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Photo credit (and article on the Art of Empathetic Listening)

Listen.  A great friend of mine told me once that human beings heal by telling stories. There are lots of stories in medicine that go untold, but I promise you there are stories. Listen mindfully, without judgment and without trying to “fix” anything. Start with “Tell me a story about something that amazed you”… and then take it from there. 

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Write a letter.  Write a “letter of recommendation”. Yes, I’m serious! Not a letter to “get” or be elected to anything, but a letter that shows you know who they really are and how amazing it is that they have dedicated themselves to something so important. Make it a love letter, a letter of support, a letter with family history to encourage them… but a real letter. Write it on a computer and then print it, or use some beautiful stationary and a pen, but create a physical letter that will sit on their desk. Put the letter in a special box (something you might add to from time to time with other short letters?). 

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Instant Pot. There are kitchen conveniences, there are fads, and then there is the Instant Pot. This has taken on almost cult like status among users for a reason. It’s a 6 in one device (pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, saute, steamer and warmer) that makes it easy to cook healthy food. For students and residents, the 6 quart basic Instant Pot does everything you need it to do, but feel free to choose one with more bells and whistles if you want. 

A cleaning service. No one likes to clean toilets. And, if you are working 80 hours a week, housework takes away precious personal time to socialize, exercise or restore your batteries in other ways. If you are in a position to do so, see if you can make this a win-win by working with a church, refugee placement group or another social justice group to find someone specific who really needs this kind of work. Whether it’s a one time “deep clean”, a monthly clean, or weekly cleaning and laundry, any help will be a deeply appreciated gift. Another approach is to do a little “sneaky” homework – your loved one may have a friend who has already found someone wonderful who might need more work.

 

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The Gift of Organization.  I have become a huge fan of the Bullet Journal. It is incredibly easy, very versatile and, I believe, a perfect system for medical students, residents and docs. (especially when paired with a list on your smart phone when you are separate from your Bullet Journal). Choose a good Moleskin journal and the new book by Ryder Carroll, who developed this technique, and wrap them together as a perfect gift. If you want to really make their day, include a package of good (but not too expensive) pens

A gym membership (and other related gifts).  It’s really hard to find time to exercise if you are busy, but it’s critical for mental and physical health. There are a lot of options here, but they need to be specific to the likes and dislikes of your loved one. If they are a runner, maybe a gift certificate for new shoes? Do they like spin classes? If so, check out where the good classes are near them. Same for yoga, dance, ice skating, tennis, swimming, etc. A membership at a YMCA ( if there is one near them) will give them access to weights, classes and often a pool. Would they commute to school/work if they had a good bicycle? Can you get them a new watch or fitness monitor that will help count steps and flights of stairs? Would an “on the go” exercise kithelp them? 

A Meditation App.  I tell my students that if they can only pick one thing on the self-care list to choose, that this would be it. There are plenty of data that show the stress-reducing benefits of meditation. What is amazing is that if you have a meditation practice the other self-care is easier, too. This is a great tool to help meet the goal to be better and happier physicians. 

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Your time.Can you cook some meals once a month and put them in their freezer?  Do laundry? Bake cookies and mail them? Get their car washed every once in a while? Make an elaborate certificate with something you could do for them and wrap it as a present?

 Need other ideas?  Here are links to some previous lists: 201720162014,

Gifts for Medical Students, Residents and Physicians

The holidays are quickly approaching and it’s time for my annual list of gift suggestions for medical students, residents and physicians.

  • Top of the list this year (for good reason) is the iPad mini.  I started rounding with an iPad several months ago and was instantly converted. The iPad mini is even better because it fits in my white coat pocket!  I am able to pull up my patient list on our EMR and access lab values and images as I’m walking from room to room.  I can also use it to show families the images, or pull up images from the web to help explain complicated concepts. For students (and all of us) an iPad gives you instant access to information to help in decision making. Most hospitals (if not all) have wi-fi, so the “starter” (i.e. least expensive) version is fine.  There is a big advantage to have 3G capability if you aren’t around wi-fi (just like your phone), but it will add a monthly fee.

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  • For avid readers (of non-medical works), consider a Kindle, Nook, or other electronic reader.  (If you are considering an iPad, it can be used as a reader, so this would be redundant).  These devices can easily go into a backpack or call bag and make it easy to take 5-minute breaks from studying or work.

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  • A new suitcase.  This is particularly important for medical students or residents who will be facing a round of residency or fellowship interviews in the in next year or two (but will be appreciated by anyone!)
  • A maid or housecleaning service once a week.  No one in medical school or residency has time to clean (or likes it)!  This will be one of the most appreciated gifts you’ve ever given someone. Along the same lines, consider a certificate for cleaning or doing laundry once a month (if you are inclined to do it yourself for them.)
  • Ties are usually required on the wards for men.  Good, professional ties will always be a welcome present.  Consider interesting medical ties like the human cell tie, x-ray and ortho themed ties or a human genome tie.    I’m not about to get into the (often heated) discussion about bow ties in medicine, but if you are considering a tie as a present, you might want to ask about bow ties before you buy. No matter what kind of tie you choose, pick one with a subtle theme that you have to look at twice. Don’t get a tie with a caduceus or that’s really blatant (stethoscopes, etc).

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  • All students and residents need good, professional clothes – a gift certificate to a big department store is a good way to let them add to their wardrobe.

My personal favorite – it rolls away and you have to chase it!

  • Membership to a gym for a year.  Working out is important both for physical and mental health during medical training.  But – unless you know which gym is the closest to where they live (or most used by their friends), it might be better to create a homemade “gift certificate” and let them decide.
  • Anything to help promote more exercise.  A bicycle to commute to school or the hospital?  A gift box with exercise equipment?  Yoga classes? New running shoes?
  • Electronic speakers for their computer to listen to music while studying. Along the same lines, add in a subscription to Pandora One to create and listen to internet radio stations without commercials.
  • Appliances to help with fast, healthy cooking.  Top of my list would be a pressure cooker – either stovetop (which is what I use) or electric.  Another great choice for the money may be the Krups multicooker that is a rice cooker, steamer and slow cooker all in one.
  • A gift certificate to Whole Foods (or any grocery store that makes take out food), or a healthy prepared food service.  In Houston, we have My Fit Foods, Snap Kitchen, Diet Gourmet, Real Meals 365 and several other services.  These types of businesses exist in almost every major city and can be easily found on the internet.

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