It is truly amazing how fast time seems to go by. Three years ago, it was unimaginable that my residency training would feel so short-lived. After surviving years of undergraduate and graduate school, I initially perceived the start of residency to be like another marathon rather than a sprint. I could not have been more wrong and another finish line is approaching at light speed.
Recently, there has been a heavy emphasis on the importance of selecting a competitive residency program. Although the American Podiatric Medical Association’s Vision 2015 campaign is making attempts to “ensure that podiatrists are universally accepted and recognized as physicians consistent with their education, training and experience” by mandating that podiatric surgical residency be a minimum of three years, a devastating reality exists. It is a well-known, heavily publicized and debated fact that over 100 individuals applying to podiatry residencies did not get a match this cycle.
This statistic does not support the advancement of our profession or the attempt to equalize our training. Each year, allopathic and osteopathic medical students have the opportunity to obtain a residency match. Some specialties and residency programs are more competitive than others. Applicants may not match. However, they have the option of matching with an alternate specialty. As podiatrists, we do not have that option.
Instead of concentrating on augmenting the pre-existing requirements for residency programs to maintain their accreditation, it is paramount that our leaders direct their attention toward ensuring that our profession’s graduates have post-graduate options. There is strength in numbers. This year, countless talented individuals capable of elevating our profession have been unmatched. My residency completion is bittersweet as I would have never fathomed that this profession would be in its current state, especially considering that podiatry has dealt with similar numbers of residency shortages in the past.
Although each residency program is unique, the overall competencies are alike. Last month, I attended a national podiatry conference and had the pleasure of interacting with former classmates. It was not until mingling with them about their future career plans and entering into the non-residency “real world” of podiatry that I realized in a few short months, I would no longer be a resident. Individuals tend to analyze significant events in their lives. Residency is a three-year process and each year is worthy of analyzing.
The first year of residency is similar to the first year of high school. There is a huge learning curve to overcome and the senior residents seem to be much more knowledgeable about everything. You will soon learn that they are and that you will be too. By being bombarded with a lot of responsibility and typically spending more time on-call and at the hospital than second- and third-year residents, you will soon become acquainted with the demands and rigors of the profession. As a first-year resident, you acquire many different skills such as patient interviewing, note writing skills and the ability to recall detailed patient information during rounds. Although these tasks may seem tedious, they will be helpful once you become a practitioner.
As a second-year resident, you are the middleman. You are familiar with the hospital and affiliated institutions as well as your attendings’ particularities. You may have more opportunities for autonomy and more opportunities to participate in increasingly complex cases. It is important to take advantage of your “unoccupied” time as a second-year resident because you are not responsible for as many administrative duties as the third-year residents, especially the chief resident. It may be a good time to participate in research, attend conferences and read journals and other texts.
Before you know it, you will be a third-year resident. The third year prepares you for the business of being a practicing podiatrist. You will be given more leadership roles. This is important because as a physician, you will be in charge of caring for your own patients. It is also important to be supportive and available to your junior residents.
Additionally, searching for jobs, preparing for board examinations and becoming licensed and credentialed at hospitals will keep you occupied. This will be your last year to have the privilege of caring for patients under the direction of an attending so learn and experience as much as you can.
Every resident will admit that there are positives and negatives about their program. In the long run, it is an honor to be able to gain additional educational experiences through post-graduate training. However, keep in mind that learning is not limited to what a residency program has to offer and other opportunities exist.
Dr. Ryans is completing a third-year residency at SSM DePaul Health Center in St. Louis.
Dr. McCord retired in December 2008 from practice at the Centralia Medical Center in Centralia, Wash.