Remaining A Lifelong Learner After School And Residency

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Camille Ryans, DPM

On the challenging journey to becoming a podiatric physician, there are many beginnings and endings. As soon as you cross one hurdle, another is right around the corner.

   By this time in one’s career, there have been many graduations, ranging from kindergarten through graduate school. With each graduation, there is a huge sense of accomplishment. However, you realize there is much more to achieve and graduation is just the first step. Post-graduate training is no different. For many, it is the final form of organized education that they will encounter. States have various regulations in regard to the amount of post-graduate training needed to obtain licensing but each state requires some degree of practical training after one earns the doctor of podiatric medicine degree.

   Residency is unique in that while there are general required rotations, there is ample opportunity to tailor your learning. It is similar to a liberal arts college in that you must meet certain general education requirements in order to graduate but you are able to choose from a myriad of courses. Ultimately, it is your responsibility to select the courses most valuable to your overall educational experience and future professional endeavors. Although podiatric residencies were established to augment the knowledge and skills needed in order to practice within this specialty, residents have the opportunity to explore any subspecialty within the discipline.

   In addition, hospitals provide an abundance of resources accessible to their residents. This may vary depending on the size and type of institution but regardless of the resources available at the healthcare system itself, there are other ways to capitalize on your learning as a resident.

   Most hospitals provide on-site lectures and conferences offered by different medical departments and many times, they overlap with scenarios that podiatrists commonly face. Furthermore, hospitals may provide continuing medical education funds for residents to use toward the purchase of educational materials.

   More specifically, one may purchase tuition toward educational seminars and hands-on workshops or essential textbooks with these funds. Residents generally have autonomy in deciding how to utilize these funds as one can determine what will be most beneficial. It is not a bad idea to inquire with other colleagues about their recommendations and experiences regarding study materials and conferences they have previously attended.

   As an added bonus, organizations frequently offer discounted membership and attendance fees to students and residents in training. It is a well-known fact that salaries during residency are not particularly excessive. As a result, outside sources such as independent companies may provide financial support toward educational opportunities for resident physicians. This is a symbiotic relationship as exposure to certain products may inadvertently preempt their usage. However, ethics come into play and you must decide to do what is right for your patients in all circumstances.

   There are many moments when I miss the convenience of an on-campus library dedicated solely to podiatry reference materials and having unlimited access to journals via my previous university’s electronic library. Tuition is costly so it is not a bad idea to take advantage of every resource at your disposal. Another excellent benefit of being a student was the access to an abundance of physicians skilled both in academia and clinical practice, all under one building. There were also many visits from guest lecturers who are experts in the field.

   Senioritis is a common phenomenon experienced when individuals approach the end of an educational experience. Avoid this as much as possible. Residency is the last opportunity to practice with a lot of freedom. You have the opportunity to try multiple products, have discounted access to various learning resources and have an entire hospital right at your fingertips. Although it always feels reassuring to move on to the next phase, live in the moment and take advantage of what you are offered now.

   After completing residency, access to information may decrease. While in private practice, you are your sole source of information. The constant flow of ideas diminishes as you are not around as many podiatric physicians or physicians in-training as you were during school and residency. Accordingly, it is very important to attend conferences, and read and discuss cases and concepts with colleagues. Also, it may be a good idea to become an attending for a residency program or give lectures to students, residents, other healthcare professionals or community members.

   A good physician is a lifelong learner and educator who takes maximum advantage of the resources available each step of the way.

   Dr. Ryans is a third-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.

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