Life After Medical Residency – 10 Tips On How To Succeed

Alisha Shibli
June 19, 2020

As your graduation approaches and you’re ready to move on from medical residency, you’ll realize your life is about to change drastically. Your focus will shift from internal matters (lectures, rounds, boards, study) to more mature, external matters (patient care, employment, your own medical practice, financial obligations, career choices).

Your choices and path in residency were pre-defined for you. However, how you forge your path to success from here on is entirely up to you. This is why it’s important to take time and prepare yourself physically and mentally for life changes after medical residency.

Changes in Roles

Your personal and professional roles change significantly following your graduation from residency. One of the best ways to prepare for these changes is to recognize them. A few role changes that happen post medical residency include:

Student to Doctor

Once you complete your graduation, you’re no longer in the position of actively acquiring knowledge. Instead, your focus now is to put that knowledge to work. A doctor’s learning process never truly ends. However, it does mean that you now need to adjust to how you approach your practice.

Internal to External

As a resident or student, your focus is primarily internal involving lectures, articles, studies, rounds, and more. Once you graduate, this focus shifts outside and rivets around being a good physician, getting a job, taking care of your patients, and getting more comfortable with decision-making.

Reconnect with Family and Friends

Getting through medical school is intense and long and it often leads students to push aside all their other needs such as friends, family, social life in pursuit of their goal of becoming a doctor. Once you complete your medical residency, the focus then needs to change and go on others so that you can offer good patient care and have a healthy family and social life. A few ways to do this:

  • Nurture your hobby. If you liked playing guitar in college, maybe join a class to learn the instrument better.
  • Call your old friend from school you haven’t met in a long time and take them out for lunch.
  • Say ‘yes’ to invitations for a movie night, or a picnic or a day at the beach.

 

10 Success Tips on Life after Medical Residency

After finishing your residency in Canada, you’ll realize that you now have to create your own curriculum instead of it being created for you. This offers a great opportunity to ensure that the path you create leads to success. 

Listed below are 10 tips to help you understand the transition and navigate to the next step with ease.


1. Find your Vocation

The medical culture is such that every single step is well-defined. You know what the course is like–the next rotation, the next exam, etc. The track is clear and you know exactly where you’re headed and what will happen next. Once you complete your medical residency, all of this changes, and figuring out how to move forward gets confusing.

You’re now expected to address the difficult questions such as, “what matters the most in my career?”, “what does my  vocation look like?”, “what do I want to be known for?

In residency, you belong to a coven where you learn from the masters of medicine. The same principle should follow through when you’re crafting your vocation. Do you have a faculty member that you admired the most? What is it about them that you like the most? Find a way to talk to them and understand how you can imbibe those same values and build a strong medical career post-residency.


2. Get a Lawyer

Hire a lawyer and let them have a look at your first contract. You may believe that your employers are looking out for our best interests. However, do you know the difference between claims made vs occurrence malpractice insurance? One of the two gets you stuck paying a tail while the other does not. Do you know what a ‘tail’ is?

This is why it is important to get a lawyer. They will be able to help you resolve all these hiccups and advocate on your behalf. Whether you’re starting your own practice, joining a group of physicians or locuming, it’s important to find the best medical lawyer who can help you take the necessary precautions to avoid any future problems.


3. Get Insurance

You are young, healthy, and your career has just taken flight. The last thing on your mind is a major mishap such as a disability or a life crisis. While everything is good now, there is too much uncertainty in life and if you have dependents then you must get insurance because you wouldn’t want them to struggle financially in your absence.

Researching and finding the right policies can be tricky. A good strategy here is to go with the company that has your car and your home insured. If they helped you when you had that fender bender, then they’re likely to follow suit in other aspects too. Another good strategy is to bundle policies as that gives you lower rates overall. If you’re going solo, then you should consider getting insurance for your medical practice.

 

4. Get your Finances in Order

Medical school is expensive and after years of training, one of the things you may have learned is to be more intentional about your finances. 

To ensure that your success measures well after medical residency, getting your finances in order is crucial. At the base, it comes down to a simple factor: debt vs. savings. You may have taken a loan to get through medical school which now needs to be repaid. Clearing off debts and religiously putting money into savings through investment is a great way to secure your retirement.

If all of this sounds hard, the first step is to create a good budget. Next, try to consult a professional advisor who can help you better understand how you can optimize your cash flow.

5. Do a Quality Check on Yourself Regularly

During your residency, you had an attending look over your shoulder and give you feedback to help you better understand procedures and guide your medical thinking. However, once you complete residency, you have to single-handedly shoulder these responsibilities. 

That means having a model in place that helps you reflect on how you’ve been performing. For example, if a code went smoothly, evaluate the factors that made it work. If something went wrong, spend time understanding what could’ve been done better. Regular self-reflection can ensure that you are constantly improving and performing at your optimum level.

Ask for honest feedback from your colleagues and nurses. Look for simulation opportunities to oil your skills. Run through different scenarios with any friends who are also doctors, who can give you honest and thoughtful feedback. Being deliberate with your practice can help you identify loopholes and prepare you for future success.

 

6. Follow your Intuition

You’ve spent years studying medicine and the past few years of medical residency were about identifying the sick and the not sick. After experiencing thousands of patients and cases, you may have developed a ‘sixth sense’ or a ‘gut feeling’. If you get a feeling that something seems awry, listen to it. If an X-ray looks a tad odd or something about the report doesn’t fit, listen to your intuition and follow through. After years of practicing your gut is well-trained to identify if something is wrong and you should do your due-diligence before brushing away the feeling.


7. Ask for Help

There may be certain cases where you would need an external consult or referral to a specialist. Or you may need some guidance from a colleague or your mentor. Try and reach out to your residency attendings and other doctors for help. Present the case to them and try to get an opinion or a different perspective. At the end of the day, your objective is to provide top-quality patient care and a good way to do that is to respect the gaps in your knowledge and seek appropriate decision-making support.

8. Set Up Medical Billing

Throughout your residency, you’re taught to consider your patients as your priority. Your salary as a medical resident has been negotiated and it is fixed and stable throughout your residency period. However, once you finish medical residency and start your own practice, you’ll have the additional responsibility for billing the Ministry of Health.

Every patient and service will have a dollar value attached to it that will need to be billed. Make sure you go with a company like Dr. Bill that has rejection management and help from billing agents. The world of medical billing is confusing and overwhelming so the more support you have the better.


9. Seek Opportunities to Grow and Improve

As a new physician, you may have regular experiences where it’ll seem like you don’t know much. This could be due to a lack of adequate experience or exposure. This is where your inner drive helps as it will push you to do your best and keep improving until you have perfected something. Some of the world’s best doctors never stop learning and improving.

Medicine is constantly evolving and that should be your approach towards your career as a physician too.


10. Look after Yourself

Getting through school and medical residency is hard work. So, cherish the feeling of graduating but also spend some time looking after your own health. A mentally and physically strong physician is in a much better state to offer good-quality patient care. Take a break when you have to, say ‘yes’ to things you’ve been saying no to. From family to physical well-being, self-care, travel, and sleep–take care of everything to ensure you bring your best self at work.

Conclusion

You can practice anywhere in the world and become a specialist at anything you like but you will find that the greatest challenge in medicine is not having thorough knowledge but instead a strong system in place that ensures that you are prepared legally, financially, and mentally to offer the best patient care. It’s about seeking help when needed and taking some me-time to de-stress to ensure that you are physically and mentally in great shape to bring your best to your patients.

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