What is a Medical Residency?

Residency is a stage in the process of graduate-level medical training. Medical residency gives in-depth and detailed experience in a particular branch of medicine. A medical resident, also known as a resident physician, has a medical degree (this can be an M.D., a D.O., or other type of degree) who practices medicine while under the supervision of other physicians who are fully licensed. This usually happens in a hospital or a medical clinic. A residency usually follows the "internship" portion of medical training, though at times the first year of a residency program includes the internship period. Residencies are sometimes followed by a fellowship program in which a physician can gain experience in a sub-specialty.

Joining a Residency Program

After completion of medical school, people that would like to become licensed physicians will choose a specialty and apply to residency programs throughout the country. After the applications have been accepted, the student will have to travel to multiple sites in order to interview for the position. These interviews will tend to focus on the applicant's interest and knowledge of the specialty that she is applying for. Then, the "match" process begins. Students make a list of their preferences for residency programs, in order, and the programs do the same for applicants. Then, a computer process matches the two lists using an algorithm that tries to create the optimum result.

What Do Residents Do?

Medical residents within a hospital are responsible for a large amount of the medical care and procedures that take place. Although residents are supervised by higher level physicians, much of the time they work on their own or with other residents. Historically, residents spend large amounts of time working the hospital, often working 36-hour shifts that are separated by 12 hours of rest. Currently, legislation is in the works to create an 80-hour maximum work week, in an effort to both ease the burden for medical residents and to ensure higher quality medical care.