The wait has finally arrived. After years of biding your time in medical school and residency, you are finally en route to what you want to do: begin training as a radiologist. And radiology residency begins. But, is it all that you had expected after all these years? Are you getting unadulterated teaching from your faculty as you had hoped? Is the learning at noon conferences with enthusiastic and engaging staff? Do the fellow residents live up to the great expectations that you had in the first place?
Well, there is a good chance that any residency program that you choose will not entirely live up to your great expectations. So, coming from an associate program director, what are reasonable expectations for your residency program when you start? And what are some unreasonable expectations for your newfound position? Let’s discuss these expectations by expounding on what is reasonable and limited. Then we will summarize the best way to treat these expectations overall.
Reading Alongside Attendings
Any program worth its salt needs to have some time dedicated to having residents listening and reading along with attendings. At the beginning of the residency, the only way to know radiology is to listen to how your mentors interpret films and dictate. And this means some dedicated time to watch, listen, and learn the ropes in real-time with a radiology faculty member. A residency cannot survive for long without this factor.
Ability To Ask Questions
If your faculty shuts you down or insults you whenever you ask a question, you cannot thrive in residency. We learn by asking questions. And in the beginning, there is no such thing as a stupid question. Heck, you don’t even know what to ask! But, if your faculty scolds you for asking questions from your mentors, this would be an example of a malicious program to residents and learning!
Monitoring Your Dictations
Any residency should ensure that its residents are dictating and interpreting films appropriately. It is the currency of radiology. The only way to do that is to assess the outcome of the radiology process. And that is the final report or dictation. All residencies should have a system for attendings to review resident dictations. This process is an essential factor for learning.
If you feel like faculty members threaten you or fear for your sanity (or life!), you have a real problem. No person can go through such a stressful learning situation in addition to the stresses of radiology residency (and yes, radiology training is considered stressful!). Nor should any resident have to encounter a problem such as this.
Unadulterated Attention From Attendings At All Times
Whether you are in a research institution, University program, University-affiliated program, or community/private practice residency, you will not be the priority of most faculty. Most have research to publish, work to complete, and families to come home to. So, if you are too idealistic that you will receive the attention of all the faculty all the time, you will never feel satisfied.
Expectations That Everything Will Be Taught
Yes. For some concepts, it does help to have a teacher. But, no matter what anyone says, most radiology is self-taught. We need to see 100 cases of appendicitis, thousands of routine chest x-rays, and perform hundreds of paracenteses before we get it all right. No one but yourself can do that for you. And, that does not include all the concepts you need to reinforce and remember by reading in every area that radiology covers.
All Teachers And Colleagues WIll Be Your Friend
Just because we are all radiologists does not mean everyone will be your buddy. Similar to the “real” world, we all have different personalities and desires. And, not all people mesh well together, no matter how much we want that to happen. On the other hand, we all can learn from one another. If you apply every person in your program to this concept, regardless of how they feel about you, you will begin to appreciate them for who they are.
We all come into new situations with great expectations. But, check for yourself. Are these expectations realistic or not? Any program should fulfill the basic requirements, such as working directly with attendings in a safe environment. But, you can’t expect any program to pull all the challenging weights for you. There is just some work you need to do for yourself. It’s the only way to become an excellent radiologist!