Team for Life

Your goal as a resident is to learn as much as you can in preparation for your future professional practice. However during this time of intense study and training, you should also remember to focus on building strong and potentially lasting friendships with other members of your team.

Not too long ago, you were in a classroom setting where the majority of your learning was essentially one-on-one you and the lab, you and the text, or you and the professor. The early academic training environment in medicine tends to encourage students to become islands. Your residency years will be well-spent if you now begin to build bridges.

Look for – and invite opportunities to build strong friendships with your fellow residents and faculty. In addition to the enriching rewards of any friendship, they will be an asset, both professionally and socially, in the future. Ophthalmology is a relatively small field of medicine and it is inevitable that you will see your colleagues again at various conferences and events throughout each year of your professional career.

Clinic Life and Work

Work and life in clinic will be new to you, especially during the early months of your first year as resident.

Be part of the effort to generate an environment of teamwork. You will stand out favorably to your colleagues and faculty by choosing to be a true team player and contributor. Choose to excel – your faculty will remember you as a resident who is willing to go the extra mile.

During clinic, do your best to help others. Be the resident who grabs the last chart. Whether you think you are a leader or not, take the initiative and be the selfless one. The positive aspect of seeing the last patient is getting more experience. Whether someone thanks you for seeing their last patient or not, evaluate the patient for the patient’s sake. Avoid the tendency to say, “That’s not my patient.” Take the attitude that all patients are our patients. Those around you in clinic will quickly come to respect you more for your selfless dedication.

If there is an individual in your program who is slower or not as willing to help out, then this person should be identified early in the year and brought to the attention of the Chief Resident and/or Program Director. The goal should be to improve our residency programs while providing a high quality learning experience and care for our patients.

Remember, residency is merely preparation for your future practice in ophthalmology. When you exhibit a professional and enthusiastic approach to your work this will be highlighted in your records and support positive future evaluations for fellowships, private practice or in other settings. When applying for a job, you will likely have partners, and they want to know if you are willing to go the extra mile for them.

If every resident strives to embrace this work philosophy of putting the patient first and being a team player, the clinical environment will flourish accordingly.

Maximizing Learning

Every ophthalmology residency training program in the U.S. has committed to measuring and reporting a resident’s learning across six core competencies:

  1. medical knowledge
  2. patient care
  3. professionalism
  4. interpersonal skills
  5. practice-based learning
  6. systems-based learning

As medical teaching programs re-align their curricula and assessment criteria around these core competencies, the residents and fellows who excel will be the ones who focus their learning approaches and habits within them as well.

Identify the other residents in your program who recognize this and think like you. Work together to create an environment of mutual edification for learning—a place for young physicians to become medical advisors. Identify your type of learning style and develop ways to review high yield topics with fellow residents, always with these six core competencies in mind.

Draw up a list of important books during each of your rotations and keep this list for future references, both for your board exams and beyond when you’re in practice.

The Social Factor

Studies show that a highly productive learning, teaching or working environment is almost always accompanied by measurably high levels of job satisfaction and workplace morale. This couldn’t be truer than in the high stress, fast-paced world of the clinical learning environment.

An important aspect in creating the productivity team, a team that is gratified at the end of a long grueling shift, and ready to come back tomorrow with the same energy and commitment is getting to personally know, like and respect the other members of your team.

That means that you, as an individual, should make every attempt to get and stay involved. Attend as many social functions in your department as you can. If your department does not routinely schedule social events for residents, then volunteer to become the social event organizer. There is usually one person in each program who likes to host parties or likes to organize gatherings (golf, dinner, bowling, game night, etc.). This is an opportunity to really connect with your fellow residents in a non-threatening, low-stress and relaxed setting.

Be sure to be inclusive by identifying residents who may be reluctant to get involved and invite them out with you to dinner or to a movie. If you’re more of an introvert, take the initiative and invite someone one-on-one to your home or out to dinner.

Your three years as a resident will pass quickly, so cherish your friendships. People with friends are often those who are friendly first, and they will enrich themselves throughout their professional and personals lives, nourished by lasting and fulfilling friendships.

About the Author:

Wesley D. Millican, MBA, CEO and Physician Talent Officer of CareerPhysician, provides comprehensive talent solutions for academic children’s hospitals, colleges of medicine and academic medical centers across the nation. He possesses a longstanding passion for career development of all young physicians and serves as a go to career resource for training program directors and their residents and fellows. In continuing his commitment to the “future of medicine”, Mr. Millican speaks nationally at residency and fellowship programs. His Launch Your Career® Series is a proven resource for residents and fellows.