Every year around the dead of winter in our program, the program directors sit around a table and discuss who will be the next year’s chief radiology resident. For many of you, this process may seem like a mystery box. Why do we even have a chief resident anyway? What exactly does she do? And, how do we make this decision? These are some of the questions you may be asking.
To enlighten you on the world of the chief radiology resident, I will answer these questions. To do so, I will talk about all the nitty-gritty details such as the myriad roles of a chief resident, the perks and downsides of the job, why some years it can be easy or challenging to decide who should be the chief, and how many programs make a choice.
What is the Role of a Chief Radiology Resident?
Roles and responsibilities may vary slightly from program to program across the country. But the essence of a chief radiology resident usually remains the same. The chief resident is the liaison between the resident program and the program directors/attendings. Residents will bring issues that arise among their classes first to the chief resident and then to the program director or responsible attending. Likewise, faculty will bring problems that occur to the chief resident’s attention first, then disseminating the information to the residents.
The duties of a radiology resident include administrative scheduling of residents, scheduling noon conferences, scheduling board reviews, running review courses for medical students and junior residents, voting as a member of the educational committee, attending chief resident conferences such as the AUR meeting, scheduling guest lecturers, planning budgetary arrangements for the residency, interviewing medical students, and more. The responsibilities are significant, and the chief resident needs to command both the attendings’ and residents’ respect alike.
Downsides and Benefits
Like any role with essential responsibilities, there are significant ups and downs to being the chief resident. Let’s start with the downside. The chief resident is often held responsible for conflicts among the residents and between the attendings and residents. They are front and center in many of these issues. Usually, there are no perfect outcomes. Also, the role of the chief resident can be time-consuming and challenging. The scheduling of residents alone is often fraught with lots of emotion and charged conflicts. Each resident wants the best possible schedule for himself/herself, and many times not everybody can be accommodated. The chief resident may be held accountable.
However, there are some significant perks to the role. First and foremost, it can’t hurt to have the words “chief resident” on your resume when applying for fellowships and later attending radiology positions. Sometimes the chief may get to participate in free conferences or get an additional stipend at some programs. Other times, they benefit from getting inside information about the residency program’s inner workings before any other residents. Occasionally, it may help to get a position within the hospital or private practice where the residency is situated.
What Do We Look For In A Chief?
The first most critical feature of an excellent chief resident is to command respect among fellow residents and attendings. We do not want to pick a resident that shows up late, gets involved in numerous conflicts with other attendings or residents, or who is not a “team player.” Second, we look for a resident who has generally performed well academically and can handle the additional load of chief resident administrative responsibilities. And finally, we look for a chief resident who possesses a calm demeanor and is likable by all.
All these personality traits and features will allow the residency to continue to run smoothly and reduce the potential for significant conflict that can make the program director’s job even more difficult. Also, it gives the program directors an additional “ear to the ground” and an advisor that can be extremely useful to prevent miscommunication.
What Makes The Decision To Find A Chief Resident Easy or Difficult?
Assessing who is to become chief is not a decision that we take lightly. An earnest discussion ensues every year among those that make the final decision. Some residency years, one or two residents have been responsible for organizing the class, settling issues within the program, and are performing well academically. And, you may have several interested parties in performing the role and responsibilities of chief resident. When these stars align, the choice to make chief resident is straightforward.
Other years, you have many interclass conflicts, or there is no clear leader that makes decisions for the class. On occasion, we have a year with no one interested in performing the chief resident’s role, knowing there are additional responsibilities. These factors can make it very difficult to come up with a final choice.
How Do Programs Choose The Chief Radiology Resident?
Different programs have distinct policies regarding the installation of a new chief resident. In our radiology residency, the faculty and program directors choose the chief resident during the third year with attendings’ and residents’ input. The chief resident will typically begin his/her duties when the final year starts in July. Some years we have had both educational and administrative chief radiology residents, and other years we have had a single chief resident that takes care of both responsibilities.
Other programs have a democratic policy, with the residents forming a voting body that may vote upon individual or multiple chief residents. The bottom line: there is no right or wrong way. But instead, the individual culture and traditions of the residency often determine how they choose the chief resident.
“To Be or Not To Be” A Chief Radiology Resident
The chief resident has a significant role in the smooth running of a residency program. The responsibilities can be overwhelming for some and can be an excellent leadership opportunity for others. If the program chooses you to be a chief resident, it is undoubtedly an honor. But, it also involves a lot of extra work and hard choices. Make sure you are up to the task!!!