What is medical residency? What is residency for doctors?

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What is medical residency? Medical residency starts just after med school. It is a 3-7 year program. In this program, new doctors are trained to specialize in a particular field in healthcare. These include:

  • Medicine
  • Surgery
  • Radiology
  • Ophthalmology
  • ENT
  • Gynae and Obstetrics
  • Psychiatry
  • Pediatrics

Within these fields are several specialties. The new doctors usually specialize in a particular branch of these broad fields for e.g. students may elect to specialize in trauma and orthopedics, which is a specific specialty within the broader field of surgery.

Residency is given many names throughout the world. It may be referred to as Post-Graduate training or PGT, Training Medical Officer or TMO, etc. In some countries, residency programs include the first year as an internship within the entire program for e.g. the US. While in other countries internship is separate and distinct from residency training for e.g. UK, India Pakistan, etc. Residency is an important part of young clinician’s training and it guides the young doctors to focus and master a particular field in healthcare. Most residency programs throughout the world are based on clearing an entrance exam. This exam is similar to med schools, which require a central country-wide MCAT. In order to enter residency, a young doctor needs to clear the USMLE in the US. In the UK, the young doctor is expected to clear the MRCP or the MRCS, though other pathways exist as well. In countries like India, you need to clear the PG-NEET. In Pakistan, you would need to clear the FCPS part 1 exam. In UAE, you need to clear the EMREE exam. Other countries have other exams. I would recommend you to check the website of your country’s medical board to learn about the specific requirements. This article will go into detail about residency training in the US only.

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What are the prerequisites of residency?

The prerequisite for entering residency in the USA is the USMLE exam also known as the boards. The USMLE exam was previously divided into four parts:

  • Step 1
  • Step 2 CK
  • Step 2 CS
  • Step 3

Nowadays the USMLE program post-Covid has dropped the step 2 Cs as a requirement for entering the residency training. Students need to now clear only two parts Step 1 and Step 2 CK to become eligible to enter residency training in the US. Step 3 is usually taken during the first year of residency training. The FSMB has also made the USMLE step 1 a pass/fail exam starting from 2022 onwards and has removed the scoring from the exam to alleviate stress on the students.

Medical students usually take Step 1 during or after the second year of med school. Most students generally take the Step 2 CK in the third year of med school or latest by the start of the fourth year to submit their applications for the Match in time. The Match usually takes place in March of each year. It is a centralized program that decides the ranks of students based on merit. Both the students and the program directors of various institutions submit their ranking preferences for the Match. Then a computer algorithm decides to match the students according to their merit and preferences. The algorithm also takes into consideration the preferences of the program directors to Match the best candidates for the program who are not only willing to enter the program but are also demanded by the programs.

How to apply for residency?

It’s a simple process. First, you need to apply for and clear the Step 1 and Step 2 CK exams. You should also get at least two letters of recommendation from your program directors or senior attendings that you worked with during med school. You will also need a personal statement, so think about making a good story to inspire the program directors. After clearing both exams, and meeting all the previously mentioned details, you need to apply for the Match. Applications for the Match start in September of every year and the deadline is usually around the mid of October. Once you submit the application, you would have to wait for an interview call from the program director. This could be either a physical invitation to interview or an online one. If you get a physical interview call, if you applied to faraway programs, be ready to travel. The interview is usually scheduled only a few weeks in advance. You will have to bear the expenses of your travel also. So that is one thing to keep in mind. Next, you need to dress well and ace the interview, Champ. After the interviews, you would need to submit a rank order list. In this list, you need to submit in order of preference, the program that you liked the most. Rank the program, that best suits you at the top and go down from there. After this, you would complete your fourth year of med school and wait for the results of the match.

What is the residency Match?

The Match is conducted by NRMP and is a central merit and preference-based algorithm. It matches the students on merit and preference against various institutions. It also matches the students on the basis of the preference of the institutions. So it keeps the preferences of both parties in mind. It was started in 1952 to standardize the process of allocating young doctors to various institutions just like MCAT allocates students to various med schools.

When does medical residency start?

Medical Residency usually starts in the month of July of each year. About 35 thousand applicants are accepted to residency programs throughout the US.

When does medical residency end?

Medical Residency will end in the month of June. This gives you about 1.5 months in between the end of residency and the start of the fellowship.

What are the requirements to complete a residency?

You need to complete the Board specialist examinations that are conducted each year. You would also need to clear the exit exam in order to clear the residency training and become an attending. Most students elect to further sub-specialize in the field by opting for a fellowship.

To learn how long a typical residency lasts check out this article. You can learn more about residency training at the National residency matching program (NRMP) website.

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