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Day in the Life of a Resident & Core Attributes: Diagnostic Radiology

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Radiology isn’t your typical residency, or career path. It will likely involve much less direct patient contact than other areas, but will still demand clear and effective communication with others. Here we’ll take a look at a typical day for a radiology resident, before giving some thought to what attributes are important for those considering the field.

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Day in the Life of a Diagnostic Radiology Resident

0600: Wake up. Your days will start relatively early, although perhaps not to the level of certain other residencies.

0700: Case conference. An attending takes the entire resident class through a particular case. Today you’re looking at an X-ray consistent with pneumonia. At first these cases might seem a little more overwhelming, but in reality they are akin to a continuation of medical school – active participation will pay dividends. Over time your ability to quickly respond to questions on a range of scans will increase exponentially. Corrections and input from the attending allow you to iterate your approach and, in turn, become better. The abilities you learn through these teaching sessions will in turn furnish you with the ability to efficiently communicate your findings with others that you work alongside.

0800: Clinical service. You will be assigned to a particular division. For example, if you’re assigned to neuroradiology, then you will spend the day reading scans of the brain, neck and spine. Expect to be working alongside seniors, who ensure that your interpretations are accurate – you will be able to consult them and present findings to them. Together, you can work towards a suitable diagnosis, which you will then be able to relay to other clinicians. As well as your core time spent in the reading room, you’ll also be expected to undertake various other tasks. For example, you might spend some time teaching medical students just before lunch, half an hour or so talking to patients to answer their queries, and some time learning core procedures that you will in time be expected to conduct independently.

1200: Lunch conference. This is a shared teaching session in which you will see other residents, and find the time to eat whilst learning. Topics are broad and designed to ensure that you both brush up on clinical skills and correctly focus your preparation for board exams. Allied to the morning teaching that you had, you should leave each day with a wealth of new knowledge.

1330: Clinical service. You report back to the same division as the morning – your duties are the same. The afternoon may be more or less busy, but in general expect this session to be a little more busy, with lag built up from patients presenting to the ED over the course of the day. Once again you work alongside more senior radiologists to interpret a range of different scans, and have some other tasks as well. You spend 45 minutes directly discussing results with patients.

1700: On call. You have a weekly on call, and today is the day. You will need to interpret all scans ordered during the shift. This is a challenging time, with much more independence than during a typical shift, and a greater responsibility put on your shoulders therefore. You’ll need to work closely with any other residents also placed on call in order to provide the best possible patient care. Today, you’ve been tasked with reading all CT scans and ultrasounds, although you’re able to get help from the other resident in the reading room when you’re unsure of something. At points, you have to call one of the attendings to confirm your interpretations – something that you will need less recourse to as you progress through your residency.

2000: End of the day. Your on call has finished, meaning that you’re able to head home after 13 hours in the hospital. Today you relax upon getting home, but on shorter days you’d take the time to tackle some learning alongside fellow residents in a virtual study room.

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Core Attributes of Diagnostic Radiology Residents

Radiology requires attention to detail and calm, logical thought processes – perhaps more so than almost any other residency. There might be less demand on you in terms of immediate stress and time management, but you will need to demonstrate that you are able to handle independent working and have the ability to quickly put learning into practice. Ensure that you have reflected on these attributes and are able to demonstrate them. 

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