What Residency Is Like After Medical School

From medical student to resident - learn what life is like after medical school as a pediatrics resident, who is embracing autonomy, teaching, and growing.

Friends, I have made it. I have crossed that stage, gotten that doctorate, and have been accepted for my medical license. I am THE INTERN. Life is good. Just like you I am still balancing long hours at the hospital with outside life. However unlike you, this is now my career and the responsibilities that come along with the letters MD follow me daily. In this blog, I am going to outline some of the differences between residency and medical school so that you can look forward to this time in your life. It has been incredibly busy while also being rewarding and exciting.


Not being evaluated as closely

As a medical student it is painfully apparent that everyone you meet is evaluating you, and these evaluations are directly linked to your grade. Grades are also seemingly stacked against you with “average” being graded as an 85%! Trying to stand out amongst your colleagues can be difficult and this creates tremendous pressure to be impressive for every patient presentation and interaction. The constant need to prove yourself is exhausting. In residency, it is true that everyone around you is still evaluating you, but the reason is different. You are getting honest, targeted feedback in order to help you become a better doctor. You aren’t being graded in residency (except for a broad Pass/Fail) and it is great weight lifted. Now you can focus more on patient care and your own learning rather than always impressing an attending. On my first day of wards, the attending asked a question to the medical students and after a few seconds of silence I answered it. The attending politely reminded me that I have graduated, I don’t have to answer his questions anymore. That is a shift I am still getting used to, but I really like it. 


Being a Doctor 

I know you are thinking, “Tyler, of course this is a change”, but let me explain. As a medical student, I remember being frustrated by a lab result or imaging report being back, but not being allowed to share the information with the patient or their families, especially if I knew the result was normal and they were worried about it. Now as a resident, I can share that result and I learn more from doing so because I want to know beforehand what exactly that result means for them and how I can explain it well in patient centered language. Also small things, like ordering Tylenol or a diet can be done quickly, without having to ask someone else to do it. I am the patient’s doctor, and the amount of autonomy, responsibility, and personal satisfaction I receive from that makes this job so worth it. Aside from this, the added bonus of being paid to work in the hospital rather than paying the medical school for me to work in the hospital sure makes budgeting easier. 


Enjoying time outside of the hospital

This cannot be said of right now because I am currently studying for Step 3, but I can see the silver lining. Finally medicine can be treated more as a day job in residency and I can enjoy the time I spend outside the hospital without feeling like I have to study every free moment I have. I have less time outside of the hospital, but I get to enjoy that time more (as long as all my notes are already done!). I also have awesome like-minded coresidents that I have enjoyed getting to show around our city. I can see why coresidents become life-long friends. There is a special bond between the people who have seen you at 3am.


Teaching medical students

As a resident, I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to teach and spend time with medical students. It is so fun to help you look good in your presentations and plans. When I get some cool physical exam findings, I enjoy stopping by the team room to see if anyone else wants to learn about it. Your questions, insight, and empathy continue to impress me. I have a big secret. You are so very helpful. Every patient that you present or note you write is one that I don’t have to. As a medical student, it is easy to feel like a burden, but I hope you know just how helpful you really are. Going and asking a question again, or bringing a patient their incentive spirometer are all tasks that help the team run smoother. I know it seems like someone always repeats what you just said or rechecks your physical exam even when you are sure, but those days will soon be behind you and the autonomy will come. 

There are a lot of ways that the intern year of residency and the 3rd year of medical school are similar. Although I don’t feel quite so lost, I still am presented with diagnoses and drugs I have never heard of. I still look up the dosages or treatments for most things, and I still lean on my Sketchy knowledge every day. Common antibiotics and their side effects come up frequently on wards, along with all sorts of other Sketchy pearls I have stored in my brain over the years. I hope that this blog is able to fuel you to finish strong in your training ahead. I want you to know that the dream job you were always meant to achieve is out there waiting for you. At the end of this, you will also be: THE INTERN, but most importantly you will finally be THE DOCTOR.

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