When I was an intern in medicine, I couldn’t wait to start my role as a radiology resident. Even though I cared for my patients to the best of my ability and studied their diseases, I knew that my time in the department was limited. I wish I could say that I put my whole heart into my work, but with all of the extraneous demands of intern year — like learning the basics of entering orders, organizing documents, and navigating myself through a new hospital — coupled with the demands of my personal life as a wife and mother, I know that I could have done better. On particularly strenuous days or nights when I was especially burned out or exhausted, I often found myself passing by the radiology department and longingly looking at the darkened lights of the registration area thinking, “Soon … I’ll be there soon, and then it will all be better.”
Fast forward to my third month of radiology residency. From the outside looking in, I have a sweet schedule: Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. No weekend calls. No night shifts. I’ve stayed fairly close with my medicine counterparts, who constantly comment about how lucky I am and how it must be so much easier. What they don’t see are the hours that I spend learning everything that I’ve been taught with an imaging focus in mind. I purposely say learning and not relearning because imaging interpretation is not something that is emphasized in medical school, and it’s not entirely intuitive. There are so many resources available that it can sometimes be overwhelming. I’ve always been a slow reader, so I find myself frustrated with how long it takes me to read material relative to my peers.
To add to the complexity of interpretations, rather than relying on cues from patients to tell me that they are hurting in a particular place or have physical exam findings I can use to narrow down my differential, I am instead relying on other health care practitioners to relay pertinent information so that I can accurately answer their clinical questions. This reliance certainly has its pitfalls as I may be faced with evaluation of scans with incomplete information. Regardless of what’s provided to me, as a radiologist, my job is to answer the clinical question and report any important incidental findings; as a resident, my job is to learn something new with every case.
So is the grass truly greener? I love my new role even with the new challenges that I am facing. It has truly humbled me, not only by exposing my gaps in knowledge, but also by reminding me about how good patient care relies on the collaboration of a multidisciplinary team of providers who each have their own skill sets and expertise. I would be lying if I said that I wish I were an intern again, but I never expected that my current role would make me appreciate my time in medicine as much as it has. Now that I can see how much I rely on good input from providers to guide my evaluation of a patient’s images, I will try to embrace this phase of training to enhance my interpretive skills so that my outputs (reports) can ultimately guide thoughtful clinical decisions to improve patient care.
Kerri Vincenti is a radiology resident. This article
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