A Week In Los Angeles, CA, On A $52,767 Salary

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Today: a resident physician who makes $52,767 per year and spends some of her money this week on an acai bowl.

Occupation: Resident Physician (PGY-1, aka an “intern”)Industry: MedicineAge: 28Location: Los Angeles, CA Salary: $52,767Paycheck Amount (2x/month): $1,575

Monthly ExpensesRent: $1,898 (Includes a $50 monthly pet fee and all utilities, except electricity and internet. My partner, B., and I split this evenly.) Student Loan Payment: $260 (Total is $370,000, all from medical school.) Electric: ~$130Internet: $60 (B. pays.)Netflix: $30 (B. pays.)Cell Phone: $0 (I’m on my parents’ plan!)Car Insurance: $150Car Payment: $0 (It’s my mom’s old car that she gave to me.)Credit Card Payment: ~$600 (I pay as much as I possibly can with my new steady paychecks! My total credit card debt is about $4,900. I maxed out my credit card ($7,750).)

Day One

8:30 a.m. — I start the night shift tonight, so today is basically my day off! I sleep in, make a pot of coffee, and take the dog for a walk around our apartment complex. This afternoon is the last I’ll see of the sun for the next five days, so I am ready to soak it up.

9:30 a.m. — I buy a drop-in class for pilates on this app I discovered called Zenrez. I basically never work out anymore since I started residency, and I know I’m going to be SO SORE, but I’ll thank myself later. I eat a breakfast of peanut butter toast and coffee while perusing the internet and gearing up to do some chores. $21

10 a.m. — I make a payment on my credit card bill ($600). I’ve been trying to be super frugal for the past few months to pay this stupid credit card off. I maxed out my line of credit trying to survive off student loans during the end of my fourth year of medical school. The costs of the application process for residency, traveling for interviews, relocating across the country for said residency program, and taking a very poorly financially thought-out vacation, and other graduation frivolities put me in way over my head. Although the amount of student loan debt I already have is shockingly brutal, it’s this credit card debt that actually gives me feelings of real shame. It’s hard to even talk about it with my family, let alone my friends.

1 p.m. — After that intense pilates class, I splurge on an acai bowl (ahhh, L.A.!) at the most delicious smoothie place near my apartment. Yummm, my body is so happy! $8

4:15 — Off to work! I pack a to-go mug with coffee, and for my “lunch”/midnight snack, a salad, hard-boiled egg, and a granola bar (whenever we get a chance to eat during the shift). My commute during the night shift is pretty terrible — about an hour and 15 minutes, since I’m driving with all the people getting off work and heading home from the city. But, it gives me time to listen to This American Life, Serial, Scene on Radio, and all my other favorite podcasts. Not to mention, the radio stations are so rad here!

10 p.m. — Work work work! I’m a family medicine resident, so during intern year, I rotate through many of the specialities in order to be comfortably exposed to anything that will come my way as a general practitioner. For the past two months I have been on labor and delivery, which is absolutely nuts. I’m pretty passionate about women’s health, so it’s been a blast working with all the ladies. But it’s a busy service, and the things I’ve seen have blown my mind. My job is to work with the obstetrician intern to manage the triage area (the emergency room of pregnant ladies, basically), and we’ll see anything from someone screaming and getting rushed in a wheelchair with their baby’s head nearly half-way out, to a woman finding out she’s miscarrying after an episode of domestic violence, to benign stuff like backaches and stomach cramps where we rub our heads and wonder why the heck someone came to the ER for this in the middle of the night?

Daily Total: $29

Day Two

6:30 a.m. — Finally end of shift and time for sign-out, where the outgoing team updates the incoming doctors on what the hell happened overnight. Sign-out drags on, but it’s always fun to see everyone together in a big group.

8:30 a.m. — Finally home. I quickly grab the dog and head back in the car to drive to our favorite dog park. My partner, B., has a day shift (he is also a medical resident), so he left for work around 4:30 a.m. We’re basically like sailors sharing a bunk at this point — I won’t see him until my day off! It’s Saturday, so the dog park is cracking. I get the biggest kick out of seeing my dog play like the maniac he is with all the other pups, plus I love socializing with all the other dog lovers. I’m exhausted, but there’s no way this dog will let me sleep without getting his energy out first.

9:30 a.m. — I shove a veggie burger into my mouth, chug water, take a quick shower, and then hit the hay. My dog cuddles me pretty hard, and I fall asleep in a minute.

3 p.m. — My alarm goes off, and I do my best to wake up. I make coffee and pack a lunch of hummus, baby carrots, chips, and a veggie sausage to take to work. Don my super exciting outfit of blue scrubs and take the dog for a walk before leaving for work. I’m out the door by 4:15 p.m.

12 a.m. — We are swamped with deliveries tonight! We even had a mom come in, almost fully dilated, with premature triplets! One of their feet was on its way out and the mom needed to be rushed to a crash C-section. The pediatric team called me to help them, as they needed a separate resuscitation team for each triplet. My baby needed to be intubated, and it was super scary! The night is crazy, and I just try to stay focused and somewhat hydrated. I swear, hours go by and you realize you haven’t drank, peed, or eaten anything the entire time. Being an intern is basically being at the bottom of the hospital totem pole (not including the medical students — at least we’re paid! Shout out to all you med students out there!), and we do everything everyone else doesn’t want to do. The learning curve is ridiculously steep, and half the time I can’t believe people are trusting me with the responsibility.

Daily Total: $0

Day Three

6:30 a.m. — Sign-out! Woohoo, free at last!

8:30 a.m. — Dog park, day two! I know tomorrow (Monday) no one will be out at the park, so I want the pup to soak up time with his doggie friends today.

10 a.m. — Scrambled eggs in a tortilla for breakfast. Then I take shower and GOOD NIGHT.

3 p.m. — Alarm goes off. I make coffee like my life depends on it. Perusing the fridge, I see supplies are lacking. My boo doesn’t have a day off for awhile, and I still have three more nights to go, so I know the situation is only downhill from here. I make toast for whatever meal this is supposed to be, and pack a lunch — the last of the hummus, more carrots, a granola bar, and a veggie hot dog. The dog and I go for a quick walk and then we’re off to work. I call my mom during the commute and try to get myself pumped for the shift ahead. (I’m starting to feel a bit burned out).

Daily Total: $0

Day Four

1 a.m. — I deliver a baby tonight, and the umbilical cord tears off. The baby has to go to the NICU for IV fluids and care, and I’m devastated. The OB intern (who is excellent, and I am so happy to be paired with him) reassures me that there wasn’t much I could have done differently. The baby may have a congenital heart disease and the cord might have been weakened or damaged prior to delivery, but still. Moments like this make me realize just how far I have to go, and also how things will happen to my patients despite my best efforts.

6:30 a.m. — Sign-out, and buh-bye hospital! One perk of the night shift: sunrise over the San Gabriel Mountains! So beautiful every day.

8 a.m. — I’m too tired to drive anywhere else once I get home. I take the pup for a long walk around our apartment complex praying the whole time it’s enough for him to let me sleep. Really starting to miss B., and wishing for a yummy meal. Instead, I scrounge around in the fridge for something edible. There are two veggie sausages left, so I make one now and one for later.

3 p.m. — Alarm goes off. It’s hot today! I turn the air conditioner on while I get ready for work, packing a lunch of veggie sausage, nuts, and a chocolate bar. It’s pathetic, but there’s no time for the grocery store. Normally, B. or I will stock up at the grocery store on our respective days off (we haven’t had time off at the same time since I can remember, ha!), but we both have been really busy the past week and haven’t been able to do it. Our house is starting to look a bit lived in, to say the least, and the poor pup needs more attention. Counting down the shifts until I have a day off (two!).

8 p.m. — I rush to the coffee cart in the hospital lobby before it closes for the night and buy a cup. I forgot my to-go mug at home today, and I know I can’t make it through the night without the caffeine!! $2

12 a.m. — One thing I love about this rotation is that the senior on shift always sets aside a time for us to eat together. During pediatrics, it was just me by myself and I never felt like I had the time to sit down and eat. There’s definitely no time here, either, but the senior kind of carves it out when things slow down, and if a nurse calls she’ll only respond if it’s an emergency. Some days we only sit down for like 15 minutes, but still, it’s nice. Tonight it’s a bit slower and we hang around for a bit, cracking jokes and talking about where we want to travel to next. The OB residents always order something for the night meal, but I’m really trying to save money so I make due with my pathetic veggie hot dog.

Daily Total: $2

Day Five

6:30 a.m. — SIGN OUT!

7 a.m. — I swing into the gas station by the hospital and fill the tank. Buying gas is like nails on a chalkboard to me, but this commute is life right now. $50

8 a.m. — I treat myself to an acai bowl this morning. I know there’s nothing good to eat in the fridge, and I deserve it!! $8

10 a.m. — Hit the sack after taking the dog for a walk and showering.

3 p.m. — Alarm goes off, and I want to cry a little inside. But it’s my last shift before my day off! And I’ll see my boo tomorrow night. This thought pushes me out of bed. I make coffee, and hard boil the last of our eggs. I eat one before hitting the road, and pack a meal of two hard-boiled eggs, nuts, chocolate, and a granola bar.

10 p.m. — Work work work work. Luckily, the night crew is pretty awesome. You never know when someone is going to deliver a baby, so the residents have to always be ready for anything. That makes for some overworked and sleep-deprived individuals. This is also a women-dominated specialty, and estrogen is a powerful hormone, y’all. Bottom line — I have mad respect for the OB-GYNS out there and feel lucky to be working with a crew of people who have a sense of humor and are fun to be around.

Daily Total: $58

Day Six

6:30 a.m. — Why does sign-out on your last shift always take forever? I have no idea, but I try to stay focused. I wish the night crew well and thank them for the last couple of nights. They are on the night shift for a solid month! I alternate between the night shift and the day shift every four days. (This week was a day longer because I was covering for a co-intern). Who has the worse schedule? I try not to think about it too hard. Adios, hospital, for 72 blessed hours!

9:30 a.m. — When I get home, I make a pot of coffee and pour some in my to-go cup. My strategy for transitioning from night shift to day shift is to try and stay awake for as long as possible on the day I am “post-night.” I load the dog in the car and head to the dog park, hoping there are some peeps out there on a weekday morning.

11:30 a.m. — There are a couple dogs out there this morning! My pup goes nuts and gets covered in mud. Afterwards, I take him to this awesome little self-wash dog bath place and give him the works. I also buy him a a big meaty bone as a treat for being such a good boy. $35

1 p.m. — My boo left me an acai bowl in the fridge that he picked up last night on his way home from work. I eat it for lunch and then rent a movie ( The Book Club with Jane Fonda, which my boo would 100% never watch with me) on Amazon while I try to keep my eyes open for the entire thing before falling asleep. $5.99

5:30 p.m. — My alarm wakes me up from my nap. I groggily get out of bed and grab shopping bags. I head to Sprouts and LOAD UP. I buy: two types of tofu, veggie burgers, veggie sausages, tempeh bacon, a cauliflower pizza, half and half, coffee (hella coffee), kombucha, whipped cream, fruit-only popsicles, cottage cheese, kale, a big container of mixed baby lettuces, two bags of pre-made salads, Brussels sprouts, apples, eggs, onions, avocados, zucchini, a container of butternut squash pasta sauce, a box of pasta, pre-spiralized zucchini “zoodles,” ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, goat cheese, a package of sliced pepper jack cheese, a loaf of sourdough bread, and some sandwich roles. I also buy a cinnamon broom because a) it’s fall, even in L.A., and b.) I know it will make my boo smile. I load it all up and pack it in the car! YES FOOOOOD! $180

6 p.m. — The idea of cooking anything for dinner despite just stocking up is too overwhelming, so I decide to pick up dinner at the Indian restaurant next to the grocery store. I order: garlic naan, paneer tikka masala, aloo gobi, and two orders of lentil soup. The order comes with basmati rice. It smells so good and I can’t believe I haven’t been here yet! $45

7:30 p.m. — I put away the groceries and do a quick clean of the living room/dining area. I vacuum and try to declutter as best as possible. I light a bunch of candles, set the table, and wait for B. to finally, finally come home.

8 p.m. — B. walks in the door, and the dog goes crazy! The family is reunited at last. He pulls off his scrubs, and I dish out the food. I tell him to stop talking so we can start eating because I am STARVING. The food is delicious, and I’ve been surviving off frozen veggie sausages and hard-boiled eggs for way too long. We catch up on our respective weeks, and we decide to watch a scary movie in preparation for Halloween. We put on The Shining and then pass out on the couch. I wake up as the credits start to roll and pull the boy to bed. So happy to be in bed together, at the same time!

Daily Total: $265.99

Day Seven

4 a.m. — B. wakes me up as his alarm goes off. I fall back asleep after he kisses me goodbye.

9:30 a.m. — The dog eventually drags me out of bed. He wants some attention! I make a breakfast of toast with scrambled eggs, and give the pup an egg on top of his dog food. We gear up for a hike nearby before it gets too hot. This day feels like my oyster!

12 p.m. — I go to the local nail spot and splurge on a pedicure with an extra foot massage. I Venmo request B. for the cost ($60) because last night he told me he would buy me a massage, and hell if I don’t take him up on it.

1:30 p.m. — I stop in at the Home Depot after my pedicure and buy a new portion of sod grass. (We leave one out on our deck for the dog to use when he’s home alone. Some day we’ll have a backyard!) I also pick up a new flowering plant for the back deck and a little cactus to give as a gift for my co-residents. I am almost done with the rotation and want to give them something to say thanks for all they’ve taught me. $45

3 p.m. — Back at home, I spend the rest of the afternoon doing chores — cleaning the back deck and putting out the new sod, doing my laundry and changing the sheets and towels, and putting away dishes. B. and I are pretty good about staying neat and sharing the housework and other chores, but today I put in double duty. He has quite a few more days before he gets a day off, and I can’t chill in the house any longer without getting this done.

6:30 p.m. — I make two dishes of baked pasta — one goes in the oven and the other in the freezer for emergency stocking. Then I take a loooong bath while it’s cooking and wash my hair. I make a face mask out of green clay and feel my pores tighten like nothing else. I even shave my legs (very rare event!), and cover myself with lotion. I admire my new pedicure and lounge on the couch with the dog while reading a book ( The Great Alone by Kristen Hannah) and drinking a glass of wine as the pasta finishes up.

8 p.m. — B. comes home to a clean house and the smell of delicious pasta. He is one hell of a lucky guy. I thank him for my pedicure and kiss him hello. We make a salad and chat about our days. He tells me all about this patient he had, a 15-year-old boy whose family car was shot up in a gang-related mess, and he got a bullet in the shoulder that just missed his lung. He also was taking care of little girl with lymphoma, and it seems like he had a pretty tough day. We take the dog for a walk together, prepare for tomorrow, and cuddle in bed for as long as we can keep our eyes open. Tomorrow, I start the day shift, and it’s back to hospital!

Daily Total: $105

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