3 steps to gain expertise early in your medical career

As a physician in training, you’re in the first quarter of your new position as an intern or resident. If you are an early career physician, you are adjusting to life as an attending.

What exactly does that mean for you? Are you moving from rotation to rotation hopeful that someone will show you the ropes? In the midst of change, that’s usually what we do. We look at the schedule, show up on the floor and hope that a senior resident, a well-intentioned nurse or an experienced attending will provide the guidance and insight to navigate the routine and responsibilities while in the process glean some wisdom in patient care.

It’s time to break that pattern and become a co-creator of your learning and professional development. Setting goals for what you want to accomplish during the next 30 days on the wards, the outpatient setting, the ER or the unit helps to direct your learning and minimize overwhelm.

Three questions to consider in directing your learning:

1. What procedures can you master during this month? How many times do you need to observe and participate in a procedure so that you raise your comfort level? Take the initiative and volunteer to participate in some manner.

2. What do you need to read to anchor the learning from the day? The demands of patient care and documentation in the EMR often limits time for reading. Reading about diseases and expanding the differential diagnosis solidifies your knowledge. Knowledge boosts your confidence and level of expertise. It aids in your ability to confidently and comfortably speak with patients and families and answer their questions. In the era of patient-centered and family-centered care, expanding your knowledge makes you a valuable resource for patients who have online access to the medical information.

3. Who can you partner with on your journey in medicine? The competitive nature of medicine tends to make physicians view their co-residents as competitors instead of colleagues who work in collaboration. The truth is that there is enough space in medicine for everyone. When we seek to work together, it becomes a universal win. Patients benefit from receiving the best outcomes. Physicians benefit from collegial discussions about diagnoses and management plans. The medical community benefits as physicians honor their unique gifts and talents brought to the profession.

When you have personal and professional direction, physicians are less likely to get derailed by the distractions that show up in the everyday operations of the medical team. Create your blueprint by setting specific, time-limited goals that create momentum and inspire you to achieve them.

Stephanie Wellington is a physician and can be reached at Nurturing MDs.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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