What is a medical residency program and what to expect?
Learn more about residency programs and what you can expect as a medical student.
The path to becoming a doctor isn’t complete when medical school ends, and it’s often just the first step in beginning your career as an MD. During the final year of an aspiring doctor’s medical program, you will start applying for a medical residency program to further your skills and training.
A residency program provides a chance to gain more hands-on skills through training, experience, and mentorship.
Whether you’re already on your journey to becoming an MD, or you’re still considering joining a medical program, then you likely have questions about medical residency. If you’re curious and asking yourself, ‘what is residency’ and ‘how does residency work,’ then read on to take a closer look at what to expect from a medical residency.
What is a medical residency?
A medical residency is the period of training that you undertake after completing your studies at medical school. MD residency takes place in a working hospital or a clinic and provides in-depth, hands-on training within a specialized field of medicine.
The first year of residency, known as an internship, is spent rotating through different specialties or rotating to other areas within one specialty. This rotation allows MDs to find a role they want to specialize in for the remainder of their residency and into a career.
The length of your medical residency depends on which area you are choosing to specialize in. For example, a family practice residency would last two years, while a surgery residency may last five or more years.
What’s the difference between a resident and a student?
An MD resident will be performing the duties of a physician while under supervision. The goal is to continue your healthcare education and provide direct care to patients. This includes diagnosing, managing, and treating health conditions. You’ll gain more hands-on experience, engage in active learning alongside your study and receive mentorship from experienced doctors in your chosen field.
To begin with, you’ll be assigned less complicated tasks and receive supervision and mentoring from doctors and senior residents. However, the responsibilities you are assigned will increase as you gain skills, experience, and confidence.
What are the requirements for medical residency?
Most medical residencies will list their program requirements for applicants on their website. This often includes medical school graduation year, types of visas accepted or allowed attempts on the licensing exam.
The best way to ensure you are suitable for your chosen residency is to take a look at the website of the hospital or clinic that you are applying for and checking the specifications. Commonly, you will require a medical degree and a license to practice medicine.
What happens during internship and residency?
The first year of your medical residency is called an internship. During this period, you will spend your time rotating through different specialties or rotating to other areas within one main specialty to help you gain vital skills, experience, and mentorship. This internship is also designed to give recently qualified MDs a chance to expand their knowledge of medical specialties and find out which area is right for them. You can expect to work in several different specialties and fields, including ER, general surgery, orthopedics, pediatrics, and OB/GYN.
After the first year of your medical residency ends, you will be expected to spend more time in your chosen specialized field. During your internship and following residency, you are expected to continue your studies at home. Finding a good balance between hands-on and mentored study in your placement and home study is vital. As a medical resident, your tasks may include:
- Initial and ongoing assessments of patient’s medical status
- Performing patient histories and physical examinations
- Performing rounds
- Developing assessment and treatment plans
- Recording admission notes, progress notes, procedure notes, and discharge summaries
- Ordering tests, studies, and medications
- Interacting with the family of the patient
How much do medical residents work?
The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education rules in the United States indicate that residents can work a maximum of 80 hours a week, averaged over 4 weeks.
Medical residents usually work between 40 and 80 hours a week, depending on their specialization and rotation. First-year residents work no more than 16 hours continuously, while more senior trainees may work a maximum of 24 hours continuously. In order to stay alert and focused, strategic napping is encouraged for interns and medical residents who are working longer shifts.
How to succeed in residency?
Residency can be a difficult time for recently qualified MDs. You work long hours and experience more freedom than in an educational establishment. However, the hands-on skills, active learning, and mentorship you will gain from an MD residency placement are invaluable.
It’s the perfect time to explore different aspects of a medical career and find out which specialty is for you, all the while gaining valuable insight into how a hospital or clinic works. In addition to this, as an intern or resident, you’ll be dealing with patients closely and have a huge impact on their health and wellbeing.
If this sounds like something you would like to pursue, then take a look at these tips to help you succeed in residency:
- Keep learning — It’s important to keep growing and learning as a physician. Make sure you seek out learning opportunities and take the time to continue your studies in your own time to balance out the practical skills you are learning on the job.
- Be professional — Remember that as a doctor, you often see people in pain, struggling, and at a bad time in their lives. Residency is often the first job for newly qualified MDs, and it’s vital that you remain professional, even during challenging moments.
- Stay motivated — Moving onwards into a residency program can be a change of pace for doctors who have recently qualified. You are no longer graded on your educational achievements. You’ll still receive feedback on your work, but it will be based on becoming a better doctor rather than an educational grade.
- Take care of yourself — It’s essential to make sure you look after your physical and mental wellbeing during your internship and the following residency. Looking after your diet, sleep, hygiene, and daily exercise can keep you in a positive frame of mind and prevent burnout.
- Connect with your community — Remember that you’re not alone. Other interns, residents, and doctors can help you along your path and provide teaching moments, support, and mentorship.
If you have any questions about medical residency and how it works, then get in touch. We’d love to help you.