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What is a Resident Doctor? (Salary and Duties)

Residency is a crucial and exciting stage in the formation of new medical professionals, but it’s simple to lose sight of its importance when dealing with the daily challenges.

“Tell me about yourself” is a common residency interview question, but you might not be as certain of your response as you are of what will happen to you after you become a resident doctor. We’ll cover the fundamentals of what a resident doctor is and does in this blog post, as well as how residency programs choose new students to enroll in their programs.

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What is a Resident Doctor?

Informally run specialist training programs for new doctors became more incorporated within medical institutions in the late 19th century, which is when residency in the modern sense of the word first emerged. By the middle of the 20th century, residency had become a standard component of in-hospital medical education, with resident doctors essentially living at the hospitals where they were receiving additional training—hence, the term “residency”—in order to complete their training.

The resident doctors in these early programs worked incredibly long hours for very little pay in addition to receiving accommodation and board. This included putting a lot of emphasis on motivating these frequently young people to give their undivided attention to their ongoing education so that they may later practice medicine independently. Fundamentally, residency developed as a response to the necessity for younger physicians to have some form of advanced practical instruction before working entirely autonomously, and this typically came with the opportunity to develop in more specialized ways.

A resident physician is a recent medical school graduate who is enrolled in a graduate medical education (GME) program. In hospitals, resident doctors are sometimes referred to as “residents” and first-year residents as “interns”.

In order to continue their study and training in a particular area of medicine, residents work in hospitals or medical offices. A resident may perform such job for three to seven years; this time frame is referred to as residency.

Direct patient care is what doctors perform while in residency. This covers identifying, controlling, and treating medical issues. Each resident in a medical facility is under the supervision of doctors and senior residents. Junior residents typically begin with more oversight and simpler chores. As residents advance in education and experience, their responsibilities grow as well.

During residency, supervising physicians instruct residents in the speciality of their choice. specialties consist of:

  • Radiology
  • Surgery
  • Internal Medicine
  • Anesthesiology
  • Obstetrics/gynecology
  • Pediatrics

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what is a resident doctor

What Does a Resident Doctor Do?

Hospital departments where residents work include intensive care units, emergency rooms, surgery rooms, and ordinary patient wards. In addition, they provide ambulatory care. Outpatient requirements in primary care and sub-specialty clinics apply to internal medicine residents.

Residents are taught by their supervising physicians to:

  • Ordering and analyzing diagnostic exams
  • Administer tests
  • Implement medical techniques
  • Keep track of medical history

The majority of a resident’s work and education in hospitals takes place during rounds, when a team of medical specialists visits each patient to assess their condition, response to therapy, and progress. Working with them enables a resident to evaluate their health, measure their level of healing, and modify their treatment.

Additionally, residents may work in medical practices or outpatient clinics. As they examine and treat you, they will be in close contact with you. Residents in medical offices spend time with your family and work with other members of your healthcare team to organize services.

Residents continue their education by going to official conferences and seminars in addition to working with patients and other medical professionals.

Training and Education

All resident physicians have earned a degree from a medical school, such as a doctor of medicine (MD), a doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO), or a comparable qualification. (Osteopathic schools place a greater emphasis on complementary and alternative medicine.)

Students in medical school often work with patients in some manner during direct clinical practice. Medical school clinical experiences can include:

  • Keeping a medical history on file
  • conducting and interpreting tests
  • speaking with patients, their families, and other medical professionals
  • placing an order for and interpreting diagnostic tests
  • conducting medicinal or surgical treatments under careful supervision

Residents often need to hold a license from the state or jurisdiction where they work in order to provide care while they are in residency. A restricted training license may be available to junior residents. To continue their education or launch their own practice, residents must finally acquire a complete, unrestricted license.

Several principles govern how resident doctors continue to learn throughout residency:

  • While under supervision, residents eventually take on increasing responsibility for care.
  • There is enough time for residents to contemplate and learn.
  • Residents spend sufficient time with patients to track the development of illnesses and disorders.

Residents must collaborate extensively with their supervising physicians during their training in order to learn medical knowledge and develop patient and procedure experience. Residents receive comments from supervising physicians for continuous academic, professional, and personal growth as well as instruction on patient safety.

Residency Terminologies

Let’s establish the pertinent groups of doctors who participate in residency programs in order to better comprehend the residency program’s structure.

Medical Students

Medical students that are enrolled in residencies are often in their third or fourth year of their MD degree and take part in clinical rotations while studying from physicians or other residents. Although they frequently get ready to apply for residencies using the ERAS and/or CaRMS matching systems, they are officially not a member of a residency or speciality training program as such. Although they occasionally help other doctors, medical students rarely carry out many surgeries by themselves.


Interns are typically doctors who have completed their respective DO or MD programs, passed the USMLE Step-2 and/or COMLEX Level 2 tests, and are enrolled in their first year of a residency program.

With the exception of surgical residencies, interns are required to do minimally invasive procedures like exams and interviews, and they normally only do so when closely supervised by attending physicians or more senior residents. In addition, depending on the final speciality being pursued, the first year of many residency programs serves as a sort of general skills year, frequently in internal medicine or general surgery.

Resident Doctors

The primary subject of this article, Resident Doctors, are Graduate Medical Students because they, like Interns, are a member of a residency program. Here, there is a slight chronological difference. An intern is often given more autonomy and responsibility after performing well in their first year of residency, performing more intricate clinical procedures and further specializing in their studies, research, and patient interaction. For instance, a second- or third-year internal medicine resident may conduct more thorough examinations, including specialist diagnostic tests like abdominal ultrasounds or otoscopy, whereas an IM intern may just be responsible for conducting patient interviews.

After their first year (or two) of training, resident doctors in surgical residencies start working on specialized surgical rotations.

what is a resident doctor

Day to Day Life of a Resident Doctor

If we limit our response to the category of resident doctor as it is described above, resident doctors perform a significant amount of work on a daily basis. After completing the first and/or second year’s overall block of work, resident doctors are expected to complete a set number of clinical rotation hours and research (or “reading”) hours per week.

Let’s use plastic surgery as an illustration. At a certain medical school, a third-year plastic surgery resident is expected to put in 55 clinic hours per week and 5 hours per week of reading. Additionally, during those clinic hours, there will be 1:4 on-call periods, which means that each resident doctor will be one of 4 resident doctors working during a clinical rotation, and will be in charge of handling about 25% of the requests for their specialized services, such as plastic surgeries for, say, hand trauma or cleft lip repair.

These figures differ significantly not only by institution but also by program. At another hospital, an internist might put in 80 hours a week of clinical work with hardly any time for research, and so on. But in general, the day-to-day is focused on giving patients medical care that is particular to their speciality and conducting at least some research that is pertinent to their specialization. A Resident Doctor may be chosen in subsequent years to also serve as a Chief Resident, in which case their daily duty will also include administrative responsibilities for their department.

The majority of the time, resident doctors collaborate alongside an attending physician who supervises their rotations and serves as a second point of contact for patients. Residency programs also use mentors or research directors to supervise ongoing research initiatives by residents in order to meet research requirements. In both situations, it is intended that resident doctors nearly always operate under the direction of a senior doctor, whether they are conducting clinical research or clinical work.

Finally, it’s important to highlight that, despite the fact that many residencies train future physicians for extraordinarily lucrative careers, practically all resident physicians make around $60k in their first year, with more modest salary increases as they advance. Financial realities for a resident doctor are not nearly as difficult as they are for a medical student, but they are not much better either, particularly if the residency program is located in a city with high living expenses.

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Becoming a Resident Doctor: Career Pathway

As mentioned above, medical school graduates who have passed their mid-training license examinations, such as the USMLE Step 2, COMLEX Level 2, and/or MCCQE Part 2 exam, are accepted into residency programs. The application process involves many steps in addition to passing these qualifying examinations.

Residency application services play a crucial administrative function in pairing qualified candidates with their preferred residency programs in both the United States and Canada. While the U.S. employs the Electronic Residency Application System (ERAS), Canada uses the Canadian Residency Matching System (CaRMS). These two systems run on quite similar timescales, despite certain differences. In general, a student should spend their final two years of medical school researching different specialties, creating their residency CV, residency personal statements, and MSPE/MSPR paperwork, as well as obtaining letters of recommendation from their professors and supervisors.

What Component of a Residency Application is the Most crucial?

There is no one correct answer, but there are several requirements that can cause your application to be rejected without consideration of the other requirements. Your USMLE, COMLEX, or MCCQE scores come first. Make every effort to optimize your scores on these comprehensive exams because low marks will unquestionably overshadow practically everything else on your application. The letters of recommendation are second in importance, and for good reason—they are a communication from one faculty body to another, carrying the weight of their reputation and experience, in addition to their shared stake in ensuring that qualified applicants enter residency programs. To ensure that your recommendation letters are as effective as possible, communicate with your letter writers early and frequently.

Residency Advice for New Medical Residents

1. Although Residency Appears Lengthy, it Goes Rather Quickly.

Despite the fact that your specific schedule for residency may vary depending on your area of expertise, it seems like a lengthy period to spend in training. However, time passes extremely fast once you are in residency. Take advantage of this opportunity to learn everything you can about your area of expertise. Consider these years as valuable training that you will require.

2. make good use of Your Free Time While in Residency.

In residency, there is indeed some free time! You will have time to do other things even if you will be working long hours. Balance is key, so make the most of your downtime by unwinding and putting self-care first to avoid burning out. Spending time outside, cooking, exercising, and watching the news are some of the locals’ preferred ways to unwind and keep their equilibrium.

You should utilize some of this time for studying in addition to taking care of oneself. Every night, make an effort to review something to keep up with developments in your field.

3. The Work is the Best Aspect of the Residency.

It seems odd that the nicest thing would be work, don’t you think? You’ve spent a lot of time learning about what you will do in your speciality by this point. The time has come to take action! Now is the time to pick up knowledge from your fellow residents as well as the attending doctors you work with.

4. Try Your Best to Enjoy Your Residency Because You Will Be Working Long Hours.

A resident doctor does not work from 9 to 5. Long shifts, often lasting 24 hours or longer, are common throughout residency, and resentment and exhaustion are significant risks. Try to mindfully dedicate yourself to your patients while you are at work and to recognize their path as a team effort. You’ll be more able to appreciate the significant role you play in the lives of your patients if you can find the bright spots amidst the demanding schedule.

Reasons to Consult a Resident Doctor

As part of your visit to a hospital or doctor’s office, you might see a resident physician. Residents deal with patients who have been allocated to their supervising doctor as a member of healthcare teams. Many times, trainees are given more time to speak with patients and learn about their conditions than their supervising physicians.

Multiple medical professionals may be working on your case, as senior residents and supervising physicians examine a junior resident’s work. Residents who have just completed medical school also take part in continuing education, so they have access to the most recent information.

Additionally, residents can help with operations, resulting in quicker care and a reduction in the number of office visits.

what is a resident doctor

Frequently Asked Questions


Depending on the program, the actual amount varies slightly, but most first-year residents earn around $60k, with this amount gradually rising with each year of seniority. You won't start paying off your medical school debt during residency, but you also won't go hungry either.


Yes, but not with exams or tests that are more common. Instead, programs assess resident performance inside a program using competency milestones and Entrustable Professional Activities, or EPAs. Although residency programs have their own evaluation procedures to gauge these achievements or skills, the standards they use are generally set by accrediting organizations like the AAMC/ACGME and RCPSC.


The majority of family medicine residency programs are among the shortest, lasting only two to three years. However, surgical residencies, particularly those that are highly specialized, like those in neurosurgery, can take up to 8 years, and extra time may be required if a subspecialty fellowship is sought after.

Conclusion: Residency From the Patient’s Perspective

As we get to a conclusion with this, it is important to consider the patient’s perspective on everything. After all, “Should I see a resident doctor? ” is a frequently posed question about residency.The quick response to this is “absolutely,” to sum it up.

Both the existence of resident doctors and their participation in the administration of medical care do not occur in a vacuum. Working with a resident doctor means that a patient will have access to a full system of supervision and medical advice, including attending physicians, senior residents, and other resident doctors available on call. Residents are surrounded by a system and structure that makes sure they’re never completely alone and makes it simple for them to get more advice from the other members of this “constellation,” as it were.

Additionally, Resident Doctors are frequently inexperienced but this is not always the case. Residents are much less likely to display the kind of jadedness or inflexibility that people may associate with experienced doctors because they are in the process of mastering their specialty and are intensely involved in both its study and theory as well as practice. Refusing to work with a resident doctor may result in a longer wait for an attending or other non-resident because resident doctors are frequently the on-call options at odd hours.

Returning to the perspective of the resident doctor, you should feel empowered by your job in residency and that you contribute significantly to your medical community. Think of it as sort of the trench warfare phase of your profession before you get to reap the rewards of your effort as a fully qualified and autonomous physician. It’s difficult, stressful, and frequently thankless job. Take advantage of the opportunity to work in the field you’ve selected, which you feel passionately about spending your entire life developing.



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