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Resident Physician
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  Who is a Resident Physician?

A Resident Physician is a medical school graduate who is participating in a GME program and training in a specialized area of medicine. Residents, as they are more commonly called, have a dual role in the health care system in that they are simultaneously learners and medical care providers.

  What does a Resident Physician do?

In their role as medical care providers, Residents work with other members of the health care team to provide direct medical care to patients. As physicians, one of their primary responsibilities is diagnosing patients’ medical problems and devising appropriate management and treatment plans.

Residents undergo several years of training; depending on the medical specialty they are pursuing, their training may last from three to seven years. With each advancing year of training the Resident is given increasing levels of responsibility. Hence, a procedure performed independently by a senior Resident may not be appropriate for a more junior Resident to perform, or it may require the direct supervision of a senior Resident or attending physician.

  What education, training, and experience must one have to function as a Resident Physician?

All Resident Physicians must have final medical diploma (MD, DO, MBBS, etc.) signifying the successful completion of a medical school curriculum.

As part of their medical school curriculum, Residents may have had variable amounts of direct clinical experience. Direct clinical experience may include the rudiments of taking a medical history; performing and interpreting physical examination; and communicating with patients, families, and other members of the health care team. They may also have had some experience with ordering and interpreting diagnostic studies and may have performed some medical or surgical procedures under close supervision.

  How and by whom is a Resident Physician supervised?

Residents are supervised by senior Residents and by attending physicians. First-year Residents are most closely supervised, but as Residents progress in their training they begin to assume more responsibility. The ultimate responsibility for supervision of Residents lies with attending physicians.

Supervision of junior Residents by senior Residents is more constant, while supervision by the attending physician occurs mainly during daily rounds and patient case presentations. An exception to this would be surgical Residents who are directly supervised by attending physicians while working in the operating room.

  What are the typical day-to-day activities of a Resident Physician?

Residents provide direct patient care and participate in ongoing educational activities, including teaching rounds, morning report, and formal conferences. They take medical histories, perform physical examinations, order and interpret diagnostic studies, and perform medical procedures appropriate to their level of training and experience.

Much of Residents’ work, as well as much of their education, occurs during rounds. During rounds, the team of physicians and sometimes other members of the health care team proceed from patient to patient to assess progress, response to treatment, and diagnostic developments, and to refine treatment plans. When not on rounds, Residents may be involved in performing diagnostic or treatment procedures or conferring with consultants and other members of the health care team.

Residents may spend time seeing patients in outpatient clinics or in supervising physicians’ offices, which often involves communication with the patient’s family and coordination of care and services with other members of the health care team.

Residents spend a great deal of time taking part in educational activities. Although rounds are a primary venue for education, Residents are also required to attend formal educational conferences such as morning report, noon conferences, grand rounds, and morbidity and mortality conferences.

  Must a Resident Physician be licensed or certified to function in his or her role as part of the health care team?

In most states, Resident Physicians must be granted a license from the state or jurisdiction in which they practice in order to provide patient care. As physicians-in-training, junior Residents may have restricted “training” licenses. At some point they must obtain full unrestricted licensure to advance in their training or enter practice.

Residents may receive certification in a medical or surgical specialty after completing accredited training and passing a specialty board examination. Specialty certification is granted by the appropriate member board of the American Board of Medical Specialties.

  What types of patients would benefit from the care of a Resident Physician?

All types of patients may benefit from the care of Residents in a hospital or clinic setting.

  How and when does a Resident Physician become involved in the care of a particular patient?

Residents assume care of patients assigned to the inpatient physician team. Residents assume care of patients in clinics as assigned to them.

  Professional organizations for Resident Physicians:

The training and supervision of Residents is monitored by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), the organization that accredits residency and fellowship training programs.

Each medical and surgical specialty also has its own professional society; these can be identified through the American Medical Association or the Council of Medical Specialty Societies.

Information on Residents’ responsibilities and rights can be found at the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education website.

Information regarding specialty board certification requirements can be found at the American Board of Medical Specialties website.

Contributed by:
Gerald P. Whelan, MD, FACEP, ECFMG

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