Things to Consider When Applying in a Residency Program

Things to Consider When Applying in a Residency Program

Aug 03, 2020 Published by Kathrin O'Neill

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Applying for residency is one of the most exciting and daunting tasks that you’ll encounter in your medical career. You’re fresh out of medical school and the possibilities for your medical practice seem endless. While it’s tempting to apply for every single teaching hospital that you imagined yourself spending your next five to seven years of residency, there are some things that you should highly consider.

In fact, these are factors that you shouldn’t ignore when choosing and applying for a residency program. By taking account of these things, you won’t create more unnecessary hurdles to pass for your residency. Here are a few major factors that should play in your decision-making:

1. Location of your residency program

Without a doubt, this is the most important factor that you should consider before you even apply in a program. Your residency will take up years depending on your specialty and your way of getting through it so expect that like other residents, your life will basically be centered around the hospital or the institution you’re working.

Ask yourself if you want a residency program in a major city or a relatively quieter one. Do you want a hospital that’s close to your current home or somewhere that’s across the country? It’s helpful to scout the location of the hospital even if it’s through Google maps. Are there nearby coffee shops, malls, or parks that you might want to go to unwind? Is it accessible through public transportation or do you strictly need to drive or Uber?

Even if you think that the program itself is great for you, if it’s located in an area that you know you can’t even imagine yourself living, then chances are you won’t be happy during your years of residency. It’s important to remember that while it’s great to succeed in your residency, you need to be just as happy when you’re outside of your work.

2. Your cost of living

This goes hand-in-hand with the location of your residency. It’s already given that a residency position on major cities like New York, Boston, or Seattle will have slightly higher salaries compared to suburban or rural hospitals.

But the major play here is that while you’ll have a slightly higher salary, the cost of living can tremendously outweigh the extra dollars that you’ll get. Housing is one of the problems that you’ll encounter. Even with shared apartments, rent could easily cost you $1,500 per month in big cities. Not to mention other utilities and expenses.

There are sacrifices that you definitely have to make when it comes to finances if you want to do your residency in a major city hospital and you’re not already living in there. It’s important that you need to visualize your finances for the duration of your residency and if you’re willing to adjust your lifestyle to do so.

3. The program’s institution type

This is something that fresh grads would normally overlook during their residency applications. They’ll either vie for medical institutions that are famous for their programs or the most convenient for them. While it’s not inherently bad to do so, having the program’s institution type match with your interest and capabilities will give you a much more meaningful residency.

For example, if you very much enjoyed the clinical experience when you were in med school, you might want to look into university or academic-affiliated programs. On the other hand, if you see yourself as the type of doctor who’s very hands-on with their patients since the beginning, then having your residency in a community hospital will be beneficial for you. Also, think about the specialty you’re planning to go into and how it plays on the type of healthcare institution you’re going to.

4. Institution’s reputation of the program and specialty

Every residency program varies the same way every institution will have their own way of going through it. It’s important that you research different programs thoroughly and how it aligns with what you have in mind for your medical career.

For example, a certain program may have the reputation for having their residents match with a specific fellowship that you also want to take, or other programs might be established for having their graduates get positions at top academic institutions. It’s important that at this stage of applications and decision-making, you would want a program that fits your interest and skills, not the other way around.

5. The program’s benefits and extras

When it comes to residents’ salaries, most of it is on the same range and fairly similar. The deciding factors for most residents are the perks, benefits, and extras that their program offers. These benefits vary substantially depending on the institution. On the shallow level, programs of top institutions usually have amazing perks to ensure the quality of your residency life.

These benefits can be anywhere from free food during shifts, access to facilities like fitness centers, or much higher perks like substantial continuing medical education (CME) funds. Some programs also provide cheaper medical and dental insurance, funding for international study, and travel reimbursement. It’s important to know what benefits are important for you to have a much better lifestyle during your residency.

6. Possibility for work-life balance

It’s already common knowledge that in a medical career, starting your residency means that the hospital owns your time. While fresh graduates may take this to their hearts, current residents will tell you that having a life outside the hospital or clinic is important. It’s a motivating factor for most doctors and it will greatly help you in the long run for your own career.

Which is why excellent programs have forgiving work hours. Although saying that programs offer schedule flexibility can be a bit of a stretch, it’s completely possible to find the right program that won’t entirely prevent you to find time for yourself.

Choosing the right medical residency program for you to jumpstart your career is no easy task. However, there are things that you can do to solidify your decision-making in choosing the best program for you.