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Transitioning From Residency To Clinical Practice

By Dr. Thuc Huynh

In 74 days, thousands of residents will be graduating residency; I being one of them.

For me, it’s been 13 years since beginning college and finishing as a family practice physician. For others in surgical residencies or other fellowships, their road has been much longer. As our days of leaning on our attendings come to an end, it’s now time for us to transition to our new role and acquire a greater deal of responsibility. Now, it’s time for us to be the attendings that others rely on. Are you ready?

Take a break

Before you dive into this newfound responsibility. Take a break. We’ve been at it for years; this grind of education. If you think about it, there are very few times in our life that we will be able to take a long break. It’s a trend that with every major task completed, there has always been a nice break for me. I took 2 months off after high school before college, 2 months off before medical school, and 2 months before residency. So it’s only natural that I take 2 months off before starting my next adventure. With every break, I’ve used the time to recuperate from the toils of the recently completed task and re-energize for the future. It works. Take a break after residency. Do what you’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t because of all those 30 hour calls. You’ll enter your next job with a brighter outlook and well rested.

Get into the groove

Let’s face it. We’re going to be slow with productivity at the start. It’s okay. Our bosses know that we have no clue about their system, paperwork, and sometimes not even their geographical area. As we get used to our new surroundings, we’ll get faster. In addition, most jobs will start you off with fewer patients because they anticipate we’ll be slower. Eventually, they’ll add more patients to your schedule. Become familiar with the available resources at your disposal. Look online, ask your nurses, ask your colleagues.

Don’t be afraid to ask

We’re not expected to know everything. Just because we’ve graduated residency, it doesn’t mean we’re now know-it-alls. Don’t be afraid to ask your partners for their opinions on cases. They have years of experience and are a valuable resource. I’ve already let my current attendings know that I’ll be calling them from time to time over my career.

Don’t stop learning

This one goes with the topic right above. If you don’t know something, improve yourself. A career in medicine essentially means you’ll be learning for life. New guidelines and breakthroughs in medicine require us to stay updated in order to practice the best standards of care for our patients. Get involved with CME classes, conferences, or credits online.

Finally, don’t burn yourself out We’ll be in this business for years, whether it’s practicing medicine or moving into nonclinical roles. To avoid burnout, remember to take a break. Not a 2 month break like we talked about before; but a mini-break. Use up those vacation days. Engage yourself in hobbies like joining a book club or work on your garden. For me, I enjoy working on my websites and actively engaging in social media. Do anything that will take your mind off of medicine for a while so you can rest and re-energize.

Keep in mind these simple principles as you transition from residency to clinical practice. I wish all of us a rewarding and successful career. Congratulations Class of 2011!

About: Dr. Thuc Huynh is a family practice physician and physician technologist. Her main interest lies around how medicine can play a role with web 2.0 and social media. Dr. Huynh is currently Chief Resident at her Family Medicine Residency in Rapid City, SD and CEO of ScrubdIN, a startup company that aims to help health professionals and e-patients choose their next medical app. She blogs at

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