My Top 10 Tips For Being An Excellent Podiatric Resident

Patrick DeHeer DPM FACFAS

The month of July brings about the debut of new residents and the ascension of current residents in podiatric residency programs across the country. I have worked with residents in various capacities over my 20-plus years of practice. With that in mind, I would like to offer those newbie residents and those second- or third-year residents my top ten pointers to being an excellent podiatric resident. More importantly, I hope to help you get as much out of your residency program as possible.

10. Be on time. Your attending should never be at the OR, hospital or clinic before you. Being early gives you time to make sure appropriate equipment is readily available and necessary paperwork is complete. 

9. You should make each minute of your day a learning experience. Do not fall into the trap of a "country club residency." I realize you need time for yourself, your family and friends. Finding balance can be difficult. Just remember your residency often sets the course of your entire career. If you happen to finish a day early, see if you can go to an attending physician's clinic. Spending time in a clinic is an excellent opportunity to get office experience including patient communication, billing and coding, staff management, charting, etc.

8. Attend every conference, journal club, hands-on lab or lecture you possibly can. Your job is to learn and these opportunities are "extra credit." These opportunities broaden your educational base by providing additional teachers outside of your program.

7. The first step to being a good surgeon is being a good assistant. You want to do and not assist. Everyone knows that. Start by becoming an excellent assistant who anticipates everything while prepared for anything.

6. Be prepared for every surgical case every time. You must read about upcoming cases and be aware of alternative procedures/approaches/techniques/products.

5. Write, research and lecture as often as you can. There is nothing more significant you can do to further your education than writing or doing research or preparing/giving a lecture. The benefits are immense and they help build your curriculum vitae as well. You are keeping you CV up to date and current, right?

4. You can learn from both good and not so good surgeons. Learning what not to do can be as important as learning what to do. Critically review every case you do to evaluate what went right and what could have gone better. Use the information as building blocks for each subsequent case.

3. Make sure you are a member of the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) and actively follow the Young Physician Section information, and your state association. I am of course biased on this one as a member of the APMA Board of Trustees. I believe we are stronger together, especially as a relatively small group. The APMA and state associations are the very best resources available to you. The APMA created the Young Physician Section for you and it exists to help you along your professional journey. Join as many foot and ankle related organizations as you can as several do not charge residents for membership and offer outstanding educational opportunities. Being involved in your profession is not only paying it forward but is also one of the best investments you can make in your future.

2. Ask “Why” often. A good teacher is always willing to explain the "why." Some may offer it, some may need to be asked and some may be irritated by being asked, but ask respectfully "why?" When you understand the "why," you, in fact, understand.

1. Read and then read some more. Wear your library (digital or bricks and mortar or both) out. In a previous blog, I listed my top ten podiatric textbooks ( Peer-reviewed journals are equal, if not more relevant, to books. Here are my favorite journals: Foot and Ankle International, the Journal of Foot and Ankle Surgery, the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Clinics in Foot & Ankle Surgery, Clinics in Podiatric Medicine and Surgery, the Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association, Foot & Ankle Specialist, The Foot, the Journal of Foot & Ankle Research, Clinical Biomechanics, the Journal of Biomechanics, Gait & Posture, Diabetes Care, and the American Journal of Sports Medicine.

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