How to Excel in Your Residency

May 19, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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Pre med students pose in Iringa, Tanzania. You survived four years of undergrad, four years of medical school, a slew of interviews, late nights writing personal statements, and Match Day has come and gone. As a new resident, you join a unique group of over 16,000 newly minted physicians annually who are now in the next stage of their professional journey. Whether or not you landed at your dream residency program (and we hope that you did!), there are a number of ways to excel in your program.





Professionalism, professionalism, professionalism.  

Chances are high that you’ve already started to master this key physician trait. As a resident, there are high expectations that your demeanor under pressure will remain professional and confident at all times.  Your residency, where your performance will be viewed under the microscope, is your last chance to establish and hone your professional presentation to patients, colleagues, and superiors.  If you need assistance in this area, seek out a mentor, let him/her know your eagerness to enhance your professional practice, and work fiercely to become a serious medical professional.

Know your end goal. 

For the majority of physicians in residency, the end goal is to take and pass the associated Board Certification exam associated with their specialty.  So if your residency is in Emergency Medicine, at the end of your residency, which can take between 4-5 years, you’ll sit for your boards, and you’ll definitely want to pass these on the first attempt.  When you know what your end goal of your residency is, your priorities will become much more clear.  Obtain as much information about the boards as possible early on in your residency.  Then, as you progress through each residency year, you’ll know if you are getting closer to being fully prepared for this high stakes test.  If you’re not, you may need to be proactive and aggressive in acquiring the knowledge and experiences that will help you be successful.

Learn new ways to study. 

In medicine, learning never stops.  Whether you are engaged in your didactic lectures during your first year, interacting with your attending during clinical training, or practicing on a simulation, your ability to learn through multiple modalities and be able to recall and apply your lessons is critical.  Note-taking is key, and you’ll find your own most effective way to take notes during lecture, with patients, and after procedures.  The old fashioned way – paper and pen – will always work, but you might experiment with new technologies and note-taking apps. 

Build endurance during those long hours. 

Your residency is likely to be the hardest part of your professional training.  The hours you’ll need to work and study will be countless, and your willpower to continue on this path will be tested.  No one expects you to be on point 24/7, but the more you can build up your endurance for long work hours, the easier the shorter days will become in the future.  Self-care is especially important during this time; you can work hard as long as you play hard too!  Take care of yourself first, so you can take good care of your patients too.

There is no one trick to guarantee success in your residency.  With a multi-pronged plan, your years spent in the final stages of medical training will be the lynchpin to a successful career as a Board Certified physician.