Teaching family practice residents is rewarding

Can the field of family medicine truly become monotonous?

I never thought I’d ever find myself in a repetitive routine when selecting family medicine as my specialty. I spent eleven years after high school studying what I know. How can eleven years of material really become mundane? In a way, it’s a great thing – it means I am feeling comfortable and confident in my job.

And I am fortunate enough to be able to do anything and everything: pediatrics, prenatal care, minor surgeries, women’s health, geriatrics, chronic disease, you name it. I am the Jill of All Trades. After all, you really can’t find any more variety in any other field of medicine than in family medicine. Like Forrest’s box of chocolates, “you never know what you are going to get” — on the other side of the exam room door that is. But it’s only a matter of time that eating the same box of chocolates daily becomes predictable and mundane, just like any other job.

Then, an opportunity came knocking on my door to teach family medicine residents. I did some teaching in college and medical school; how could I forget how fun and rewarding that was? I had completely forgotten about it. Mainly, because I was too busy being a student myself. Going through the stages of becoming a doctor was so exciting: finishing four years of college, then applying to four years of medical school, then applying to three years of residency, and then applying for a “real job” (where you finally get paid instead of paying others for almost enslaving you). After graduating from residency, it becomes a tad anti-climactic, don’t you think? It is over … just like that (well, not really that fast, but it sure does feel that way).

What’s the next challenge? Well, teaching takes you back to that academic setting. Once I finally started teaching my twinkle-eyed residents, I didn’t want to stop. I look forward to those several days a week I get to teach. It’s like a new sweet treat in the midst of my work week. How come all other physicians don’t do this?

Teaching my residents is now one of the most delicious parts of my daily routine. Here is why teaching residents has brought back the sweetness to my daily grind:

1. Adding new flavors. It will break up the monotony of your day. Instead of doing the same repetitive job every day of the week, it gives you something new to look forward to again. It’s like an upgrade from eating See’s Candies to a box of Godiva chocolates. It will never replace my special one-on-one interactions with my great patients, but it does bring an element of excitement to my daily grind. I still get to practice medicine and do what I love to do on most days of the week, but for several half-days a week it adds a new flavor to my box and brings variety to my job.

2. Learning the ingredients. Just like reading the ingredient list, it’s important to learn what components are combined to produce your sweet treats. What branches of the cranial nerves feed the tongue? What structure in the brain is responsible for the pleasure I experience when devouring my box of chocolates? Teaching my residents keep me on my toes. In order to teach, I have to remember and review all the minute details that we all may lose sight of after our training and our exams are over.

3. It’s all in the wrapping. It is so rewarding to see the residents come through the clinic not knowing how to insert a speculum during a pap smear, but watching them graduate able to place an intrauterine device all on their own. It may be partly selfish, but it feels good to know that I helped shape that person’s learning, and thereby indirectly helping their future patients in turn. It’s all about the end product, and how wonderful of a physician you help produce in the end.

4. Molding and sampling. It depends on where you work, but if you are in a large group, HMO, or even a small private practice that is growing, you may need to recruit for a position one day. What better way to “sample” your sweet candidates than to work with them closely as their teacher? Also, you can shape and mold them into how you would want them to practice, by teaching them great work ethics and skills from the very beginning of their training.

5. Relocating the chocolate business. It’s a very noble profession, to be involved in academics in any way. And if you were to ever move on from your current position, it’s a great addition to your resume.

6. Your chocolate sales proceeds. Did you know you can claim CME (Continued Medical Education) points for teaching residents? In fact, you can claim these points as a member of your medical organization directly through most of their websites. For family medicine, you can claim your CME directly on the AAFP (American Academy of Family Physicians) website.

For these reasons, and so much more, I cannot recommend resident-teaching enough. You will get the chance to meet and mold these future doctors, many whom will be taking care of you or your family members one day. You will get the opportunity to form new friendships with your future colleagues. You will get the opportunity to meet some super interesting people with very intriguing backgrounds and futures.

To take the opportunity to teach, you can contact your local residency, medical school, or nurse practitioner schools. Make a difference.  You have a lot to give.

Bon appétit!

Jill of All Trades is a family physician who blogs at her self-titled site, Jill of All Trades, MD.

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