Transitioning From Student Life Into The World Of Residency

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Camille Ryans, DPM

Another graduating class of podiatric medicine has entered the workforce. While it is quite an honor to achieve the title of “doctor,” I am still very humbled by the quantity of learning that I have yet to achieve.

   As I have spent time with various physicians, I have attempted to retain their strongest qualities, whether it is an excellent surgical technique, a great bedside manner or brilliant practice management strategies. Each doctor’s methods and contributions are as unique as their individual fingerprints. I had the privilege of spending my last days before graduation shadowing a well-respected local podiatrist. It is fitting that my education began by observing a podiatrist in the office and will end in the same manner.

   My experience was encouraging in that I was able to witness an outstanding approach to patient care. Within 15 minutes, the doctor made a diagnosis and convinced the patient that he needed whatever treatment the doctor recommended, no questions asked. It is remarkable to be capable of exuding such confidence that the doctor is able to garner the full trust of the patient within such a short period of time.

   Throughout life, each of us has had mentors and supporters who have spent ample amounts of time to share their knowledge and advice with us. I am grateful for each of their contributions.

   Each July, first-year residents of all medical disciplines enter into the world of post-graduate residency training. This is a period full of commitment to learning the practice of medicine. Initially, there is a huge learning curve as you adjust to a new hospital system, attendings and co-residents. You are no longer a student and consequently, you are expected to have an increased level of responsibility regarding patient care. It is a privilege to be able to have so many direct patient contacts, both in the clinical setting and in the operating suites. In many countries, such privileges are not granted until after the completion of a fellowship.

   With the abundance of residents entering into the workforce, the integrity of the healthcare system faces challenges. The school years of many nursing programs as well as other allied health schools conclude around the same time of the year, causing an influx of new professionals entering the hospital setting. It is not uncommon to see large groups of new faces walking around with expressions of uncertainty. This change affects each individual involved directly or indirectly in patient care.

   It is paramount to establish productive communication between residents and hospital staff. I applaud various house staff members for their patience in explaining protocol and dedication to excellent patient care.

   Aside from mastering the non-physical aspects of patient treatment, such as medical record taking and order writing, residency is a time to become knowledgeable about how to physically treat various ailments. There is a sizable liability in allowing residents and students to treat patients. I am deeply appreciative for those individuals who take the time to teach podiatrists in training.

   This is exemplified when mentors allow those in training to scrub into surgical cases and work in private offices, or when mentors host academic lectures. Being affiliated and active with teaching programs is undoubtedly one of the greatest aspects of the profession of podiatric medicine.

   There is a chain of command in medicine that must be respected. As a first-year resident, you are the low man on the totem pole. However, there are high expectations.

   For example, the first-year residents are often responsible for spending time visiting students and serving as a resource between them and other individuals involved with the residency program. In addition, you are expected to learn different techniques used by various attendings and how to perform surgical skills. Many people would agree that the first few months may seem overwhelming but as time goes on, things become more routine.

   Podiatric residencies have advanced over the years to be more diverse and have longer periods of training. It is a privilege to be able to participate in such academic environments. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of committed podiatrists, the profession has continued to excel. Through the efforts of podiatrists taking the time to share their expertise with those in training, podiatric medicine will continue to advance.

   Although residency training is filled with various challenges, it is the time to be appreciative and take advantage of every learning opportunity offered.

   Dr. Ryans is a first-year resident at SSM DePaul Health Center in St. Louis.

   Dr. McCord recently retired from practice at the Centralia Medical Center in Centralia, Wash.

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