Why I chose to become a resident

There’s a lot of buzz these days about doing a residency. While it may still be optional, an increasing number of graduates are choosing to partake in this additional year of training. I suspect there’s no financial incentive, although, making some money is better than making none. Instead, people are realizing that a residency provides an accelerated knowledge base straight out of optometry school.

The beginning of my journey

It has been one month since I left the west coast and journeyed to New York to begin my residency in the Vision Therapy and Rehabilitation program at SUNY. The steep learning curve was nothing that I could have imagined and it has been a whirlwind to say the least.

My biggest challenge for this first month was to get used to the ins and outs of a new program within a new school. Familiarizing myself with a new EMR was no picnic. I think most of us can agree that transitioning to a new medical record system is a challenge…yes, even for a millennial. Will there ever be a system that operates in a consumer friendly yet efficient manner? Perhaps a dream for the future, but I digress.

Next, there has been a struggle in transitioning from student to resident/doctor. I suspect this experience has been contaminated by the fact that I’m in unfamiliar territory, literally! What I mean by that is, I sense a battle within myself to be autonomous but also wanting direction. As a doctor, I want to be confident in my medical decision making, but my residency exposes me to complex cases where I need to find a balance between taking charge and knowing when to ask for help.

My moment of realization

I came to a realization as I was sitting in clinic one evening beating myself up over my inefficiency that day. By the end of fourth-year I was efficient; I had seen a lot of general primary care cases, had a good exposure to disease at my VA rotations and was ready to graduate and provide standard of care.

So, why did I choose to do a residency? It’s because I wanted to challenge myself in an area that I was genuinely interested in and continue my learning. I wanted to understand the complexity of vision rehabilitation and the various philosophies of treatment and management. My end goal is to provide a superior level of patient care.

So, I need to remind myself that this is a year-long program and all the learning will happen…exactly…in the course of a year. I didn’t choose this program like most people don’t choose their residencies because it is going to be easy. I chose it to challenge myself and to fill in the gaps in my knowledge about binocular vision.

Ultimately, I realized that I can’t let the everyday struggles overwhelm me and I need to remember that these concepts will get easier to master over the next year. All in all, my learning within the first month has been exponential and I can’t wait for more.