So you matched to a residency program--now what?
If you’re among the record-breaking number of applicants who matched to a residency program this year, then you’ve likely enjoyed celebratory relief. But as the era of medical school ends and a new one begins, it’s important to know how to best prepare for residency—and who better to learn from than residents themselves? Get advice from peers who know exactly what you’ll experience as you transition to your first official year as a physician.
For Match 2015, members of the AMA Resident and Fellow Section (RFS) communicated with students and offered guidance during Match Week. And their support didn’t end there.
Now that the Match has ended, the AMA-RFS asked students to send the most pressing questions they’d like residents to answer via Facebook. We reviewed each question from your peers and have compiled the best resident responses, so you can make the most of this new chapter in your medical career.
Some of the top questions students asked residents are:
Q: How did you go about finding housing in your new city?
A: Scout for apartments that will make your commute to work convenient.
Remember, you’ll be required to come to the hospital even when the weather is really bad, which can make a long commute challenging. If you’re driving to work, identify roads that are near the hospital and choose an apartment in one of these locations. If using public transit, follow the same principle: Research the train or bus routes near the hospital, and choose an apartment that is near one or more of these routes. Before committing to a certain area, check public transit schedules to make sure trains and buses actually operate during the hours you’ll travel as a resident.
Also, consider hiring a realtor in bigger cities or use apartment-finding websites. Your new colleagues can be a great source of information as well.
Q: Is it better to buy a home or continue to rent? What home-buying tips do you have?
A: This really comes down to the best choice for you. Your decision to rent or buy will vary based on where you live, your family income and how long you plan to stay settled in the same area.
Try using online tools like The New York Times’ mortgage calculator, which can help you compare the cost of buying a home compared to renting one. If you decide to buy a home, we recommend starting the process early because residency gets busy. Also, consider applying for a physician loan with low down payments that specifically target residents.
Q: What are your top tips for preparing for the first month of internship?
A: Residents’ top tips include:
- Remember to take care of yourself first. With all the stress and commotion of residency programs, it’s important to manage stress and maintain healthy eating and sleeping habits. Leave your work and its frustrations at the hospital.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. As the old saying goes, “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
- It’s okay to be nervous. The first month will mark a drastic transition in your career, but remember that you are not alone. Things that once seemed scary will soon feel like second nature.
- Be prepared to know your patients well as early as your first day. You’ll be the primary person taking care of your patients now, and being prepared will be the best foundation for being an excellent resident.
- Get organized. Save key phone numbers (such as for your chief resident and new colleagues) in your phone. Organize a place to study, and try some trial commutes to determine how long it will take you to get to work in morning traffic.
- Get to know your class during orientation. As new residents, almost everyone is in the same boat. Your residency mates can make a great support system and resource in the future.
- Check with your program about when your first paycheck arrives. Because this timeframe varies a lot, and financially preparing for residency can be expensive, be sure to plan ahead.
Q: What is one thing you wish you would have known before starting residency?
A: The learning, the studying, the exams: They never end, so it’s important to keep reading and stay up-to-date on medical information.
Q: What are your recommendations for continuing to excel at clinical duties while adequately preparing for USMLE Step 3?
Use the strategies that worked for you in the past. You’ve already mastered Step 1 and Step 2 CK, so you have some experience with long, tough exams and know which prep books are the most helpful for you. But how you prepare for Step 3 will be very dependent on your specialty, clinical experience and prior test-taking skills. Talk to your co-residents for more tips on study strategies that work best for people in your specific program.
Q: What types of educational and work resources should I pay for, and which ones should I expect residency programs to buy for the trainee?
A: It depends on your program, so make sure to check with your program director before making any big purchases. Generally, residency programs offer a book allowance, and you’ll receive some funds for overnight call.
Q: What are the trade-offs for deferring loans vs. income-based repayment the first year of residency?
A: The first year of residency often requires minimal payment, if none, for income-based repayment because of the loan grace period. You really will not have any due payments for about six months after starting intern year. If you signed up for income-based repayment as an intern, it should be close to zero for at least the first year. Then after settling into your new city, reviewing your finances with a financial advisor or business-inclined friend, you can better understand how your loans will coincide with your future career goals and earning potential.
Q: How does my residency position factor into government loan forgiveness programs?
A: Most residency programs count toward the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. If you want more details or aren’t sure if you’re eligible, the Office of the U.S. Department of Education offers details on which loan forgiveness programs may apply to you. The Association of American Medical Colleges also provides a list of programs that offer loan forgiveness and special repayment options once you’re in practice.
For more advice, read about what families of new residents need to navigate change.