residency training

Hello everyone. I’m a little concerned about the age i will be if i were to complete residency. I’m 32 yrs. old and i am currently a sophmore in undergrad. I know i have a long ways to go but time moves quick and i want to be prepared for my future. If i am correct, most residency programs are from 4-7 yrs. which would make me around 44 - 47 yrs. old before i can begin to practice. My questions are: While in residency, do you feel like a doctor in training or a student? On average, how much of a salary do you make in these programs? Would i be less competitive when searching for employment because of my age or more competitive? And, If there is anyone out there who has started practicing at around this age, how has this experience been for you?

Thank You

John -

Check out some of Mary’s posts. She just finished residency after going back to school at 41. We have a couple other posters who are posting their residency experiences, although I am not sure how old they are.

I can’t speak as to whether you feel like a doctor in training or a student in residency, but salaries for new residents right now are in the mid to upper $40K range. If you go to various residency program websites, most of them will have a section on benefits that will list what their current salary is. The salary does usually increase one to two thousand per year of residency.

I don’t think your age is going to make any difference when it comes to finding a job. Although you may be older than a lot of your fellow classmates, the average age of entering medical students is rising and there seem to be more older, non-trad students every year.

If medical school is really what you want to do, don’t let your age stop you. I remember watching one of the “Resident Life” shows on TLC or Discovery where one of the residents was in his 60s. His thought when he started the process was “In 10 years I’m going to be x years old. I can be x years old and still wishing I had become a doctor, or I can be x years old and be a doctor.”

You’re definitely a DOCTOR, not a student, when you are a resident… although you are also keenly aware of how much more you have to learn. I’ve been diagnosing and treating people for three years now both in the hospital and the clinic. As a resident, I was supervised by attendings (more experienced physicians who have completed their residency training) but the supervision often consisted of me talking to them:

Me (calling from the ER at 2am): “So this guy, he’s got risk factors for having a heart attack, but based on his story I bet it was actually reflux; I am going to keep him in the hospital overnight, follow his enzymes, do another EKG in the morning, set him up for a stress test and if it’s okay he can go home.”

Attending (from her nice warm bed): “OK, sounds good to me.”

In the clinic, by the time I completed residency I would see most patients by myself and had a workload not too different from an attending’s. I would consult with an attending, of course, for any questions.

Now I’m headed out into practice… I will still consult with my colleagues, either in my office or by referring a patient to a consultant (e.g. cardiologist, endocrinologist, etc), but will continue to do what I’ve been doing much of the past few years.

Finally, and I can’t emphasize this enough, as a physician you are ALWAYS a student. There is always so much to learn. You must always have an inquiring mind; you must keep up with advances in your field; you must question your assumptions constantly because things are always changing. (For example I put a patient on Avandia last fall to get better control of his diabetes - based on the evidence at the time, that was a good thing to do. I got him off it quick-like this spring after I reviewed the journal articles that questioned Avandia’s safety profile.)

Good luck to you, and hope that helps!


Doctor-in-training, definitely.

As a medical student you learn that one of the intern’s tasks is to replete electrolytes (like potassium, or “K” for its chemical symbol). “Replete K” is one of the most common things you do as a medicine intern. As a medical student you write the order for this, but someone has to cosign it.

My first order (inpatient prescription) of internship, appropriately, was “replete K”; but it meant something different. First, as soon as I wrote the order, the nurse was going to go put potassium into the patient. Second, no one was going to cosign it. And though there is a clear sliding scale to guide dosing, I still had this thought: “Holy crap: potassium! If I screw this up I could kill someone!” (Very high potassium levels can be fatal.)

Basically, the sense of responsibility and accountability is very different.