Psychiatry Rotation Lessons for Life

My rotation with Dr. Rivera has been an incredible journey.  In a few short weeks, I have learned skills to become a better clinician, but more importantly, I have learned to strive to become a better person.  He has opened my eyes to a healthier lifestyle and to a better mental state, not only to feel good, but to avoid preventable diseases and disabilities that our society increasingly suffers from.  Because of his guidance, I have changed the way I eat, and I already feel healthier and have more energy.  He has taught me “not to sweat the small stuff,” which helps reduce anxiety and stress in my life.  I have learned to focus on the present and on the positive, and to care less about what others think of me.  This has truly helped me with managing stress in my life, and has made me realize that a healthier state of mind leads to a healthier physical being.

I have also learned that patience is a great virtue.   When it comes to his interactions with residents, Dr. Rivera always sits down to talk to them, and comes off as more of a friend than a physician.  It’s amazing to see how quickly these residents respond to that, and how, in that one moment, they connect with Dr. Rivera.  Even if their thoughts are scattered and racing, there is a certain moment in time where that all stops and they make a connection.  I feel that this is an inner ability that some of us have and some of us lack, but it teaches us that if we take time and try to connect with a person, they will respond to that.  Although one can’t learn how to make connections with people, one can certainly learn how to take a moment to step into their world and give them the time of day.  This will help me as I start my journey in the healthcare field, where even though work will be busy, I will keep in mind how powerful it is to sit down with the patient and give him or her a moment of my time.

I have learned that touch is more powerful than words or medications.  These residents respond to hugs and hand holding, which is evident from the smiles on their faces.  It taught me that patients are people, and that a simple gesture such as a hand shake or a hug can truly impact a provider-patient relationship.   It doesn’t take much to shake a hand or give a hug, but most of us don’t even think about it.  It’s as if we are opposed to making a physical connection with our patients.  It was eye opening for me to see that Dr. Rivera treats his residents as human beings instead of patients and charts.  He knows their stories and they know his.

Another important lesson I learned is that dosage increase in medications does not always heal the patient.  Dr. Rivera believes that conservative therapy is best in order to avoid side effects and drug interactions, especially in the geriatric patient population.  He believes that starting small and even decreasing dosage is better for the patient, and this is especially true in geriatric patients.  His motto of “start low, go slow, but go” is one of the most important lessons I have learned as a student. Wherever I end up, I know that that mentality will help to prevent me from making mistakes when it comes to patient care.

He has taught me that there are alternative treatments to chemicals, such as music, massage, meditation, activities, and calming rooms.  His patients have responded positively to these alternative treatments, and it has inspired me to think creatively and utilize some of these tools when I become a clinician.

I have been beyond blessed to have had the opportunity to do a rotation with Dr. Rivera.  I have learned so many great lessons, and I hope to one day inspire somebody like he has inspired me.  Every day was a lesson, and there are too many to list.  Being a good person cannot be taught, but there are certain things we all can do to ensure the safety and health of our patients.  I believe that this rotation will make me a better clinician, regardless of which career path I choose.


Senior year Physician Assistant student
Nova Southeastern University