Red Flags in Residencies

The purpose of a residency is to prepare you to pass boards and train you to be a specialist clinician.  As long as you achieve that objective, then the residency is a success.  However, residencies are 2-4 years long, and you don’t want to suffer for that long if you work somewhere terrible.  These are the red flags I would consider when looking at residency programs.

  1. Low boards pass rate.  While those training residents SHOULD be focused on helping them pass boards, some programs just throw the resident to the cases without journal club, classes, or boards prep time.  Although practicing your specialty is necessary to pass boards, it’s not sufficient.  Find out what their boards pass rate is.  If it’s less than 80%, I would be worried.
  2. Low credentials acceptance rate.  For many specialties, you have to submit a case log and other materials indicating you are qualified to take the specialty board exam.  Some programs are notorious for not preparing their residents for credentials submission.  I see this most often with specialties that require an accepted peer-reviewed publication and programs that don’t do a good job of making sure their residents complete a publishable paper in time for credentials submission.  Again, ask what their credentials acceptance rate is.  This should be 100%; if it’s less than that I would ask where the problems were- it’s possible one resident didn’t do what they were supposed to.  But if more than one resident had a problem with this in the past, I would be suspicious of the program.
  3. Miserable residents.  Look, a residency is HARD- it’s not usually a time of puppies and rainbows.  But it shouldn’t be TERRIBLE.  If the current (or previous) residents all report that they get abused, or overworked, or yelled at, this is probably not a good situation to enter into.

Those are really the ones I can think of.  If a program has a good track record of credentials acceptance, boards pass, and not-miserable residents, it’s probably a reasonable residency experience.

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