How to Use Your Time in Residency to Cultivate Your Career
Congratulations, new resident! It’s time to meet your match. It’s been over 70 years since the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) began matching residency applicants with healthcare organizations. In 2022, NRMP matched over 39,000 residencies.
A great deal of effort (and dare we say, stress?) goes into preparing for Match Day. By this point, you’ve:
- Completed your requisite education and professional training
- Researched residency programs
- Applied to programs
- Interviewed for residencies
- Ranked your top choices
- Prepared for the SOAP process (in case you didn’t make an initial match)
And on Match Day, you’ll learn where you’ll spend the next 3-7 years of your life!
Once you begin your residency, things will really take off. You’ll be incredibly busy! But don’t lose sight of your path. Although your residency will provide the opportunity to hone your clinical skills and implement what you’ve learned so far, it will also give you great insight into how to cultivate your career path. Here are a few tips for approaching this phase thoughtfully, with your future and career in mind.
What to Keep in Mind as You Move into the Residency Phase of Your Career
Build your network and find your mentors.
During your residency, it’s important to take advantage of all of your resources. Learn as much as you can from others’ experiences. Ask lots of questions and allow seasoned providers to show you the ropes.
- What advice can you glean from those who have gone before you?
- What relationships can you nurture that will provide mutual benefit in the future?
- Who can you rely on to guide you as you move forward?
Develop your empathy and patient care skills.
Now is the time to discover what type of care provider you want to be. You can begin to put your expertise and study to work helping others. Tap into your empathetic, understanding problem-solving side.
- What type of provider do you want to become? What is your bedside manner?
- What patient population do you see yourself providing care for? Infants, children, teens, adults, the elderly?
- Do you want to work with underserved patient populations? Patients who have acute or chronic conditions? Patients who need palliative care in the final days of their lives?
Take care of yourself.
During your residency, you may feel like you’re burning the candle at both ends. Your schedule will be demanding. But you’ll be laying the foundation for how you’ll care for yourself through the rest of your career. You must practice self-care. Try to get enough sleep, eat well, drink enough water, get sunlight, exercise, connect with family and friends and decompress.
- What can you do to relax – read, hike, bike, swim, practice yoga, get a massage?
- What habits can you practice now that will help you throughout your career?
- Do you have someone to talk with when things get tough?
Get to know the area.
While you’re in residency, settle into the community, make connections on a local level, and get involved with groups. Explore the restaurants, sights, natural lands and parks. Consider whether this is a city, state or region in which you’d like to reside.
- Do you see this as a place to start a family or build a practice?
- Would you rather travel before settling down?
- Would you choose a different region after your residency?
Explore your clinical interests.
While you may be the type of person who has had a clear idea of where you’re headed from the outset, most residents are still exploring their passions. Residency is an ideal time to identify and refine your interests. Note whether you enjoy working in the type of facility you’re in and consider how you’ll proceed after residency.
- Do you see yourself in a large health system, small hospital, rural health, private practice, academic and research institution, college or university clinic, VA, IHS, DOD, corrections, outpatient care?
- Do you prefer a fast-paced environment like the emergency department, or do you see yourself in a less intense environment like family practice, ophthalmology or dermatology?
- After residency, will you want to stay with your organization or seek another position through a different organization or a healthcare recruiting agency?
Considering these factors during your residency can help you be more deliberate about your next career steps. That way, when you’ve completed your residency, you’ll likely have a strong network, an excellent bedside manner, healthy habits, solid clinical interests and a clear idea of where you want to practice and live!
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