After the elation of matching wears off, fourth-year medical students realize that in a few short months, they’ll have new initials after their name—and a host of new responsibilities to go with them.
What are the best steps to take to ready yourself for the next phase of your career? Two program directors, two residents and a professor share their tips below.
Your residency schedule will be demanding, and you may not have a lot of time to travel initially, says Sonbol Shahid-Salles, DO, MPH, a member of the AOA’s Bureau of Emerging Leaders.
The weeks after medical school just before you start residency provide a prime opportunity for a long vacation. This is also a good time to connect with family and friends, especially if you’re relocating to a more distant location.
“My husband and I took a trip to the Dominican Republic right before we started residency,” Dr. Shahid-Salles says. “I was looking ahead to all the cold wintry days I’d be spending at the hospital.”
Talk to current residents
“If you are moving to a new area after you match, start getting familiar with the hospital if you can,” says Rodney Fullmer, DO, a former member of the AOA’s Bureau of Emerging Leaders. “Try to reach out to the residents who are already there.”
Current residents can answer your questions about housing and best places to live, he notes.
They can also provide insights about the expectations for residents in your program, including call, says Stephen M. Scheinthal, DO, a psychiatry professor at the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford, New Jersey.
“It’s important to understand what your on-call expectations will be, because you don’t want to end up living too far away to get to the hospital when you’re expected to be there,” he says.
Some residency programs post call and other expectations on their websites, he notes.
Brush up on critical care and ACLS
Nearly all medical students have been certified in Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), but few spend significant amounts of time in the intensive care unit observing or assisting with high-quality critical care, says James Schoen, DO, the program director for the family medicine residency at Grandview Hospital in Dayton, Ohio.
“If you haven’t done critical care, getting some experience in it before you start your residency would be invaluable,” he says.
Some residency programs provide ACLS certification to their new residents, but not all do. Find out if your program does, suggests Susan Enright, DO, the former program director for internal medicine at Genesys Regional Medical Center in Grand Blanc, Michigan. If it doesn’t, consider recertifying on your own or brushing up on the course material.
“Before you start your residency, you want to feel very comfortable with ACLS protocols,” she says.
Work nights and take call
Working nights and taking call will help fourth-year students develop greater confidence in their decision-making abilities, Dr. Schoen says.
Working the night shift helps students learn how to assess situations, evaluate medications and make decisions with little backup. “A student could potentially join the resident team doing night coverage for a period of time before they graduate,” he says.
Try to put in orders
“Between now and the time you finish medical school, one of the most important things you can do is try to put in orders under the supervision of a resident or an attending,” Dr. Fullmer says. “Ask the resident or your attending to allow you to start putting orders in, and try to do it on your own as much as possible with supervision so you get familiar with that process.”
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