About medical residency programmes

A medical residency is a part of the graduate training programme for medical school graduates, and is a required component for eligibility to apply for licensure as a physician. During a residency, a graduate is able to practice medicine under the supervision of a licensed medical doctor.


A medical residency is a postgraduate medical training programme in which a person who has received a medical degree has a chance to practice medicine under the guidance of an experienced, licensed physician. A resident generally works in a hospital setting where she is able to watch and, ultimately, perform a wide range of medical procedures. A residency can last anywhere from three to eight years depending on the speciality that the resident has chosen to train in.


There are limited spots available in coveted residency programmes, and the application process is very competitive, particularly for the most specialised fields of medicine. In most cases, an applicant interviews with a number of programmes, and is responsible for his own travel and related expenses. A resident works long hours, and is frequently on call for certain shifts. A college student who is considering pursuing medical school needs to be aware of the length of the commitment that will be expected of them, not only through their school years, but also as they get through the residency programme. The more specialised the branch of medicine, the longer the time that a graduate will spend in their residency.


While medical school provides a student with an excellent base of knowledge in the areas of anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, pathology and the basics of medical practice, chances for practical application of these skills are few. Residency programmes give a recent medical school graduate a chance to see a procedure performed many times, and to practice that procedure under supervision of a physician. Additionally, a resident who serves in a hospital is exposed to the different specialities of medicine, which can help them to refine their further education and career goals.


A resident works extremely long hours, often up to 48 hours straight of duty, in addition to being on call. A resident works, on average, between 60 and 130 hours. This leads to a chronic lack of sleep that can not only wreak havoc on the resident's personal life and well-being, but makes them vulnerable to impaired functioning that can affect patient care. Residency programmes that are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) are now required to limit resident's work weeks to no more than 80 hours per week (as averaged over the course of a month). The American Medical Association has strongly recommended that other programmes follow suit.


A first-year resident works in internal medicine, seeing patients with a variety of conditions. After the first year, the resident moves on to a programme specific to the speciality that they are pursuing. The minimum length of a residency is three years, after which the resident is eligible for licensure. The total number of years for a residency vary by speciality. Neurological surgeons and plastic surgeons spend the longest time serving as interns--between seven and 10 years total. Other types of residency programmes include allergy, anesthesiology, critical care, emergency medicine, paediatrics, preventive medicine, general and orthopaedic surgery, obstetrics, pathology, ophthalmology, psychiatry and others.

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About the Author

Dayna is a freelance writer, artist and former high school teacher. She has been writing professionally for three years, and hold degrees in physical anthropology, art and special education. Her particular areas of interest include anthropology, health and nutrition, fitness and beauty and skin care.

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