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4 Steps to Sharpen Your Skills Before Residency

A female resident wearing a white coat and stethoscope, holding a folder A female resident wearing a white coat and stethoscope, holding a folder

Brush up on critical knowledge that will help you excel in the next stage of your medical journey with these four steps. 

Do you have a bit of time between med school and the start of your residency? Consider how you’ll use it to your best advantage. Of course, you’ll probably want to spend some time decompressing and indulging in the self-care that you probably need right now, having survived a med school education. You’ll probably also need to figure out the logistics of moving to a new location. Nonetheless, it’s important to plan how you’ll keep your skills sharp during the in-between time so you can embark on your residency with confidence. 

Set a new routine

Your life may be in flux for a few weeks or more, so be intentional about planning. Choose the time of day when you learn best and schedule a solid block of time that you can use to refresh your skills. Set aside other time for relaxing. Maintaining a structured schedule will let you enjoy your downtime more and prevent you from feeling guilty about unwinding while also honing your skill set. 

Create learning objectives

Nothing motivates continued learning like being able to observe your own progress. Pinpoint your learning objectives for this in-between time, determining where to focus your efforts. What areas of confusion or weakness do you most want to strengthen? Think about the medical milestones you expect to achieve throughout your residency, particularly in the first year, and what skills you need to focus on to accomplish the first ones. Reach out to your mentors to talk through the challenges you’ve experienced and get their advice on how to overcome them. Ask them to point you toward books and articles on the specific topics you want to learn more about, too. 

Learn the unwritten rules of residency

Get familiar with the culture and unspoken guidelines of residencies so you’ll be on your game from day one. Read up on the methods that doctors use and watch videos that show them on the job, putting the techniques you’ve been learning into practice. Learn about how communication flows in a typical hospital, and study up on best practices for interacting with other healthcare staff. Remember, some of the most important skills to develop aren’t technical abilities but rather the “soft skills” that are essential for every healthcare provider—like listening to feedback and learning to handle fear.

Brush up on your diagnostic abilities

As a new resident, diagnosing patients is probably an area where you need to build your skills and confidence. Use a program like CaseX to navigate every step of the process, from diagnosis through treatment, with real patients and lots of guidance. By building your comfort in real-life scenarios, you’ll feel more poised and prepared at the start of your residency. 

Take these steps, and you’ll make a great first impression at the start of your residency. By showing that you’re professional and prepared, you’ll draw potential mentors to your corner and develop the support base you need to excel in the next stage of your medical career!