As a medical student, you might have seen your seniors applying to medical residency programs in their final year, and you might have wondered what you would do when your turn came. Applying to a residency program is the next step after medical school. But what is medical residency?

A residency program is further training for aspiring doctors in a specialized field of medicine to gain more hands-on skills and experience.

Navigating the residency program process can be overwhelming and confusing, which is why going through this breakdown of medical residency might make the process seem less confusing. Let’s take a look at what medical residency is really all about and what the process entails.

What Is A Medical Residency Program Like?

A medical residency is the period of training that aspiring doctors undergo after completing medical school in a field of their choice. The residency program happens in a hospital or a clinic, and is designed to provide practical experience and technical skills required by trainees to become full-time doctors.

The length of the residency depends on the specialization chosen but typically lasts three years. For example, a family medicine residency lasts two years, while a surgical residency lasts a minimum of five years.

The first year of residency is the internship period, during which you will work under different departments and gain experience in multiple specialties. You may have rotations between fields, including ER, general surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, and orthopedics. This allows you to choose your specialization in the later years of your residency, during which you will be working in the specialization you’ve chosen.

A residency is different from being a student as you will be doing what actual doctors do but under supervision. This includes dealing with patients, treating illnesses, and performing diagnostic tests. You will be supervised by a trained doctor and given more responsibilities as your knowledge and skills grow.

Some of your responsibilities as a medical resident involve:

  • Performing continuous assessments of patients’ conditions
  • Analyzing patient histories and performing physical examinations
  • Assisting doctors on their daily rounds
  • Taking notes, creating reports, and drafting discharge summaries
  • Ordering tests and medications
  • Dealing with patients and their families, communicating to them clearly about the illness, and informing them of the treatment plan

Doctors typically take the Step-3 exam of the USMLE after the first year of residency. Passing this exam qualifies you to be a doctor, but you still need to complete the remaining years of your residency.

What Are The Different Residency Programs You Can Specialize In?

Some of your rotations between different residency programs include:

  • Cardiology
  • Emergency medicine
  • Endocrinology
  • Hematology
  • Infectious diseases
  • Intensive care
  • Nephrology
  • Obstetrics and gynaecology
  • Oncology
  • Palliative care
  • Pediatrics
  • Psychiatry
  • Pulmonology
  • Rheumatology

Prerequisites For Applying For Medical Residency

The prerequisites for applying for a residency program depend on the organization you’re applying to. Most residency programs list their criteria for applicants on their website, but in general, the criteria include having a medical degree and a license to practice medicine.

What Else To Know About Medical Residency

Residency training is intensive and hard, as you will be working long hours, an average of 80 hours per week. You can expect to have frequent 24-hour shifts, and longer-than-eight hour shifts on other days. You will be expected to apply your classroom and clinical knowledge in real-time. It’s also common for residents in training to continue studying even during their time off.

It’s important to remember to take care of yourself first before you can take care of others. The intensity of the residency program can lead to burnout and depression, so striking a balance between your study time and personal life should be prioritized.