Upon entering into a residency program, the idea of two to four years of additional training may seem like a long time, especially after completing 20 years or more of schooling from kindergarten to the conclusion of podiatry school. However, it does not take long to realize that time spent in residency, although substantial, seems to elapse quickly. Accordingly, efficiency is a necessity in order to make the most of your residency.
As a resident, especially during post-graduate year one, one must master a huge learning curve by developing a systematic time management plan. At times, this may be easier said than done. Each residency program is designed differently in regard to responsibilities at each level of post-graduate training. Many programs place a large demand upon entering residents. This may taper off as the resident advances through his or her training. These time commitments may include such tasks as working most intimately with visiting students, having the majority of days on-call and closely managing hospital in-patients.
In addition, interns may partake in multiple off-service rotations, which require intense studying. This system is logical as it allows the new individuals the opportunity to become assimilated into the new medical environment.
Many times as a resident, you may feel like there are not enough hours in a day as you strive to complete all of your tasks as efficiently as possible. The medical profession is unique in that it is ever changing. Short-term changes include new developments in your patient’s status. If there are complications or concerns, you must address those immediately.
In addition, as a podiatrist, it is necessary to stay abreast of long-term changes to the profession such as the development of new legislation, medications, devices and procedures. For this reason, continuing medical education is important. As a resident, it is important to take time out of your routine schedule to attend such conferences whether they are local meetings at the hospital or national conferences. While it is easy to become absorbed in the teachings and philosophies of your residency program, it is very enlightening to exchange ideas with your peers and even be guided by different educators throughout the nation who are committed to sharing their expertise with young professionals.
The skills we learn as residents will be useful in the future as you embark upon private practice. Skilled physicians are able to maximize the small amount of time allotted for their patients’ appointments while being able to convince patients they received a thorough examination and that you did not rush through their visit. Patients deserve that right especially when they spend so much time in the waiting room and fill out such an abundance of paperwork. Doctors’ offices are notorious for long periods of waiting. However, patients take note of offices where the physician can see them quickly.
Often, the office staff plays a large part in how efficiently an office runs. Good communication and showing respect toward staff is paramount. Mastering the management of an office may take many years of trial and error. Fortunately, as a resident, you have the opportunity to observe and work in different offices. These experiences are invaluable as you are able to formulate a system that allows you to work faster without compromising patient care. As a resident, you are able to learn how to perform problem-focused examinations and develop a treatment plan, hopefully before even exiting the patient’s room.
Working in private practice is much different than working in a surgery center and it is important to be able to manage in either environment. With the advent of surgery centers, being able to adhere to a strict time schedule is even more necessary as many of these centers are privately owned by a cohort of physicians. With the constraints of the economy, it is necessary to pay even closer attention to all factors that affect profitability.
Although developing time management during your intern year may prove challenging, consider this a great opportunity to formulate skills you cannot learn in textbooks. This will help you become a more efficient podiatric physician in the future. Approach residency training as a marathon. Just as you establish a comfortable pace, you will discover you are not too far off from the finish line and then you can begin to gear up for your next professional hurdle.
Dr. Ryans is a first-year resident at SSM DePaul Health Center in St. Louis.
Dr. McCord retired in December 2008 from practice at the Centralia Medical Center in Centralia, Wash.