I've seen it all. Some radiology residents make sure to glean every last drop of experience from their radiology residency, so that by the time they graduate, they are ready to hit the ground running.
But then there are others who never quite live up to their full potential during residency training. Many of these folks are great people, but when they are about to leave, I'm not quite sure if they will be able to handle the pressures of radiology practice.
In the end, I have learned that some residents are late bloomers and do pull themselves up by the bootstraps once they leave residency. But a large percentage, unfortunately, shift constantly from job to job.
Many of those folks are the same ones who seemed to do whatever they could to destroy their own residency experience during their four years. And yes, we hear about them again when the paperwork comes back to us each time they change jobs when out in practice.
So, I figured I would talk about those characteristics during residency that are a surefire way to ruin your residency experience. Don't make these same mistakes!
1. Sweat the small stuff
In the heat of battle, it's very easy to forget the end goal of radiology residency: to be well-trained and ready for practice when you leave. Remember, residency is only a four-year experience.
Some residents get caught up in the moment and forget about the end game. They concern themselves with things that are relatively small, such as rising prices in the cafeteria, having to do a few extra shifts, or some disheartening comments from one of their annoying colleagues. Sure, there's a place and time to worry about those things. But they shouldn't become an all-encompassing mission.
Some people never get over these issues and forget to learn what they need to know when they leave residency. In the process, they also upset their colleagues, distracting everyone from their training. Get over it!
2. Argue with your colleagues
There are some residency classes that always get along. Others have permanent animosity toward one another. The inability to get along spills over into other areas in radiology residency. Studying suffers because some folks are left behind and no one seems to care. Tempers flare and prevent classmates from covering each other when they need it. Everyone becomes exhausted and upset. Next thing you know, residency is over and everyone is worse for the wear.
Do whatever it takes to get along. It is not worth four years of frustration!
3. Sabotage your team
Every once in a while, one resident does not play fairly in the sandbox. Perhaps he or she refuses to help out with call. Or maybe this person doesn't show up to work and constantly needs to have additional coverage.
Not playing nicely with others affects the entire team. If you want to ruin the experience for everyone, it's very simple. But in the end, it will haunt you when you need your residency team the most!
4. Don't read
Radiology residency is a marathon, not a sprint. That means you need to keep up with reading books and articles. I can guarantee that if you do not adequately read enough starting year 1, you will fall behind your classmates. You will not comprehend or perform well in noon conference.
Likewise, your call and board experiences will suffer. And your colleagues will not want to have you as a study partner because you are so far behind.
You came to radiology residency to become a radiologist. Part of learning radiology is reading a lot. Why would you want to sabotage your own training?
5. Always compare yourself to others
Everybody learns and reads at different rates. Some residents click with the material earlier than others. That is OK. As long as you are doing your due diligence during radiology residency, you will eventually get to the promised land of radiology competence and graduation.
Don't worry if some of your colleagues always seem to get things right and you don't. The quickest path to misery is worrying about how everyone else is doing. Undue competition ruins the experience for everyone. Care first and foremost about your own progress!
6. Don't show up to readouts
There are two main pillars to becoming a great radiologist: knowing the material and acquiring experience. If you were going through the hassle of completing a residency, why would you shortchange yourself and not try to get as much experience as possible?
You will never understand the context of reading radiology without having the readout experience. Not being at readout also affects your mentor's day as well. Sit down with your residency mentor and don't miss readout. You are only hurting your own career and your relationship with your superiors. You never know when you will need their recommendations!
7. Do not improve upon your weaknesses
You've been getting poor evaluations in the area of mammography. So, what do you do about it? Absolutely nothing. The complaints continue to stream in from attendings, but you persist in not reading the material or studying your misses.
Behaviors become habitual and will likely continue even after you graduate if you do not learn from your mistakes. People who don't learn from their missteps are the same ones who can never keep a job and never improve their own lot. This hurts you, your patients, and your colleagues. Residency is all about self-improvement to become the best you can be, so that you can help your patients.
8. Procedures are not for me!
Some residents hate procedures and will do whatever they can to avoid them. I understand these folks may not become interventional radiologists. However, they still need to know the basics of certain procedures such as needle localization, arthrograms, and more.
Sure, you can get away with avoiding procedures during residency. However, when you try to land your first job, you may have frustration as you find the only jobs available require "light interventional" work. Not learning procedures may affect your future partners and colleagues. By not trying to become comfortable with procedures during residency, you are only hurting yourself!
9. I am always right
Some residents do not accept criticism. Residency is the time to learn and change bad behaviors before they become ingrained in practice. We are in the game of treating people, not of always thinking we are correct. Why wouldn't you want to correct what you are doing wrong? It makes no sense. You are only hurting your patients and colleagues. There is no room for rejecting criticism, both during and after residency!
10. Don't take on extra responsibilities
Each year of radiology residency, you accrue new responsibilities. Shirking your responsibilities is a surefire way to become a needy radiologist when you graduate. When the technologist comes along to ask a question, don't send them to someone else to answer it. Take charge of your situation and section. Those who never take on additional responsibilities never learn to become an independent radiologist! Go forth and make your own path.
Avoid destroying your residency experience
It is far easier than one might think to destroy your own residency experience. Sometimes you just have to put in a bit more effort to get more out of residency.
Please, please, please don't succumb to the pitfalls and traps that can prevent you from growing and improving as a person and a radiologist. Get over your issues: They aren't worth it!
Dr. Barry Julius, founder and chief editor of RadsResident.com, has been an associate radiology residency director at Saint Barnabas Medical Center since 2009. RadsResident.com is designed to be a credible, reliable, and informative site dedicated to radiology residents, students, program directors, and physicians interested in other radiology residency topics, with an emphasis on day-to-day residency information that is not covered on most educational sites. Topics include surviving a radiology residency, residency learning materials/books, financial tips, and jobs.
The comments and observations expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of AuntMinnie.com.