Transformation that works

Residency to Real World

Categories  |  Medical Education

 |  By Rebecca Andrews, MD, FACP

Ah, June, the month when medical students graduate after 20 years or more of education. They are finally ready to start their lives as doctors and enter the hands-on portion of their trade, residency. It is a time ripe with excitement for the future, but also a time of trepidation after so many years of waiting - maybe medicine will not be all I expect.

June is also the time of another graduation - the residents that were just starting their training 3, 4, or 5 years ago embark on the rest of their careers. It is bittersweet for me, as faculty in graduate medical education. All the excitement of starting anew mingled with nostalgia as we send parts of our heart and soul into the world as newly trained attendings. It is to these graduating residents I dedicate this resurrected article from my first year of practice.

“I don’t think there’s enough coffee in the world for this day,” I thought to myself as I looked at my schedule, glowing in red, to warn me just how far behind I was. With the holidays approaching and the stress of the economy, it seemed like my days were becoming packed more with stressed patients that needed to unload their worries than talk about their hemoglobin A1Cs. As I grabbed another box of tissues for the next patient, I just had to chuckle at all the things residency does not prepare you for.

This is a typical day in my world, yes, but also in every new graduate’s life as they begin to see patients in the “real life” setting. I have been a medical director in two settings: a community health center and an academic hospital clinic. The settings, although unique, presented the same challenges to new providers: adjusting to a full schedule, learning the business of medicine, billing to the best of your ability, and navigating social and healthcare systems. Each challenge has the ability to overwhelm new providers, but success is possible. The keys to success are different for each person because all providers learn differently and have different strengths and techniques.

Common to success as a physician is the ability to adapt to the stressors of the environment, whatever that environment should be. Adaptation involves learning or adjusting skills through trial and error. Why should I try 100 different ways of refining my scheduling if I can go online to a blog and see the top five scheduling methods of the majority of physicians in the United States? This is what the American College of Physicians has to offer young physicians beginning their careers.

In today’s world, we are surrounded by information, and electronic means to get information, keep in touch, and find support. Social networking has become one of the most powerful tools at our disposal for developing both personal and professional contacts. Group web pages are examples of this type of networking that provide an avenue to enhance our professional lives. Interactive physician websites help keep us up-to-date with events and learning opportunities for providers around the country. These pages can provide active listing of events, chat rooms/boards for current issues, updates on Medicare changes, “tricks of the trade” from more experienced physicians, and job searching for those looking for new opportunities.

Networking within your medical home such as ACP, AAP, or AAFP can increase involvement of young physicians. The common topics new practitioners need support in are: financial health, practice set-up, research in the clinic setting, malpractice advice, and finding mentors. By providing electronic information on all of these topics, young physicians can peruse them as the need arises and a professional home can again be viewed as a community within which they can participate. Instead of just providing information, these homes can provide interactive routes for young physicians who can become involved and turn data into a living and changing feed of support; an interface of exchanging ideas.

Medicine involves a lifetime of self-sacrifice, but the pace of the business can overshadow the commitment to the local community and the superseding community of medicine. It is an honorable and heavy responsibility we bear. Social networking through professional homes can be a support for new providers and provide a locale for exchange of ideas and communication. It is my belief that in turn this will produce the desire to give back to these communities. The environment of acceptance and support will foster commitment and participation of young physicians locally and nationally.

As I finish my crazy, busy day I say, “Goodbye, enjoy the summer” to my last patient. It has been a long day, but as with every day, I take comfort in my ability to shape the future of medicine.

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