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Medical Residency

Wondering What Medical Residency is Really Like? Here are 5 Common Questions Answered!

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You don’t become a physician right out of medical school; in fact, some may say that earning an MD degree is only the first step in the challenging road to becoming a fully qualified physician. During your fourth year at medical school, you start applying for a medical residency program to gain hands-on skills through training, experience, and mentorship. This is your chance to step into the shoes of a physician and experience what it is like to become a doctor. However, even the rigorous of medical school don’t prepare you for the exciting and intimidating journey ahead. You must have a dozen questions in mind about what to expect as a resident physician, and we are here to answer all of them.

What is a Medical Residency?

It goes without saying that you will need formal training as a physician after finishing your Caribbean medical school and earning your MD, but that leaves a lot of room for wondering what really goes on behind the scenes. During residency, you will be working at a hospital, medical office or a clinic as a licenced physician, under the supervision of experinded attending physicians. During this phase, newly graduate students undergo in-depth, hands-on training within a specialized field of medicine and perform the duties of an attending doctor.

The goal of residency programs is to equip residents with the necessary skills, knowledge, and experience that they need to become successful practitioners in their chosen medical field and help them learn directly from doctors with exposure to everyday life as a medical professional.

How Long are Medical Residencies?

The duration of a residency program varies from specialty to specialty. For instance, residency programs in primary care fields, such as family medicine or pediatrics, typically span 3-4 years, while a surgery residency program would require more extensive training. Here are the residency durations of some of the most popular medical specialties:

  • Internal Medicine – 3 years in duration
  • Family Medicine – 3 years in duration
  • Emergency Medicine – 3 to 4 years in duration
  • Pediatrics – 3 years in duration
  • Psychiatry – 4 years in duration
  • Transitional Medical Year – 1 year in duration
  • Medicine (Preliminary Year) – 1 year in duration
  • Surgery – 5 years in duration
  • Anesthesiology – 4 years in duration
  • Obstetrics-Gynecology – 4 years in duration

What Does a Resident Do?

During the course of your residency, you will be required to provide direct care. While you start out with less complicated tasks during your first year, responsibilities increase as you gain more education and experience. After your first year as an “intern”, you will get to diagnose, manage, and treat health conditions, under the supervision of doctors and senior residents ofcourse.

As a resident, you will work in hospital departments such as ICU, emergency departments, OTs, and general patient wards, not to mention, ambulatory care. If you are an Internal medicine resident, you may need to fulfill outpatient requirements in primary care and sub-specialty clinics. As a medical resident, your tasks may include performing rounds with phsicians, assessing patient’s medical status, recording patient histories and conducting physical examinations, learning to perform bedside procedures, creating treatment plans, monitoring patient progress, and ordering tests, studies, and medications.

Senior residents also oversee medical students and experienced nurses, to ensure that each patient receives timely and appropriate medical attention. Surgery residents also see patients in an outpatient clinic setting, where they can perform physical exams to see if a patient needs surgery or follow-up with them post-op.  They work directly with the doctor during examinations and treatments and are in charge of coordinating services with other members of a patient’s health care team.

How Hard is Medcial Residency?

Each resident physician can narrate their own experiences during residency, but the one thing they can all unanimously agree on is that medical residency is one of the hardest stages of a physician’s training. The mental and physical stress can be grueling, since you suddenly find yourself tossed in the midst of all the action, rather than taking a backseat like during your clinical rotations. During years of extensive traning, be prepared to weather tons of unprecedented situations and deal with medical issues you have never even heard of, all the while being expected to rapidly absorb a vast amount of medical knowledge and apply it to real-world scenarios.

Residency could also take a toll on your emotional and mental health. Dealing with patients’ illnesses, sometimes watching them suffer or even die, and delivering the difficult news to their loved ones, can get the best of us. You will often be working extremely long shifts, sometimes up to 80 hours a week, including nights, holidays and weekends, so sleep can be a rare commodity. While first-year residents do not work more than 16 hours continuously, you may find yourself working 24 hours shifts as you move further along in your residency program. Even though the hours seem interminable at the moment, remember that every waking moment on the job takes you one step closer to becoming a competent physician. As confusing as it may all sound at the beginning, you will no doubt be functioning as a seasoned physician by the end of your first year.

How Much Do Residents Make?

Medical residents do get paid, but their salaries depend upon the geographical location, total clinical experience, and their chosen specialty. However, keep in mind that as entry-level medical practitioners, they receive a considerably lower compensation as compared to seasoned doctors. According to the stipend data collected by AAMC, most first-year resident physicians earn an average of $62,722 yearly, with the median annual stipend increasing to approximately $71,235 for fourth year physicians. Depending on the residency program you join, you may also receive other benefits on top of salary, such as health insurance, meals, and paid time off.

Tips for a Successful Medical Residency

While there is no one-formula-fits-all when it comes to medical residency and the experiences of each resident differ from another, there are nevertheless ways to build a foundation for success. Here are a few tried-and-tested tips from our faculty to help you succeed in residency:

Find a mentor: The main goal of residency is to learn from experienced professionals who can provide invaluable guidance, support, and feedback throughout your residency. We recommend that you find doctors whose scope of practise you admire and would like to emulate. Be sure to foster strong relationships with other interns, residents, and doctors who can help you navigate challenging situations, offer career advice, and support your professional growth.

Take Care of Your Well-being: Residency can seem overwhelming, and it’s easy to neglect your own health. Make sure you’re eating well, getting enough sleep, and finding time to exercise or meditate. Practice mindfulness or other stress-relief techniques to unwind at the end of long shifts. Remember, taking care of yourself is essential to providing the best care for your patients.

Develop Strong Clinical Skills: Hands-on experience is a major part of residency. Take every opportunity to perform procedures and manage cases. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, seek guidance, and practice as much as you can. The more you do, the more confident and skilled you will become.

Reflect on Your Experiences: Regularly take time to reflect on your experiences, both the successes and the challenges. This reflection can help you learn more deeply from your daily practice and stay connected to the reasons you chose a career in medicine.

 Develop Strong Time Management Skills: Residency comes with a demanding schedule and heavy workload. Prioritize your tasks daily, making to-do lists and using planners or apps to stay organized. Learn to balance patient care, studying, and personal time effectively.

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