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Getting the Most Out of Your Last Year of Fellowship

Written by: Maria Brito, MD
Published on: Mar 9, 2016

Fellowship Time Management

As the new academic year rolls in, new incoming fellows join sub-specialty programs across the nation and faculty members along with senior fellows are placing most of their efforts in accommodating the newbies, showing them the ropes, and making sure they have all they need for a smooth transition from residency. During this time, junior fellows are the protagonists while they dedicate dedicate this year primarily to elective rotations and job-seeking (while fulfilling their clinical and academic duties, of course).

The last year of fellowship goes by pretty quickly and before you know it, you’re in practice. Here are some tips on how to get the most of this time in order to better serve you in the future:

1. Get into the habit of learning for pleasure, not obligation.

Although you may enjoy the field very much, between the scheduled presentations, journal clubs, and frequent “pimping” during rounds, many fellows may get into a rut and lose passion as they see learning as a “duty.” Once a week, decide to learn something you want to learn, for fun (yes, for fun). Read a new textbook chapter. Review an article that strikes your interest without worrying about an audience. Transform learning into something you do for you and nobody else.

2. Pay attention during divisional/operational meetings.

Many fellowship programs have fellows present during meetings where such things as budget, billing, changes in healthcare delivery, and administration are discussed, yet most physicians in training tune out these discussions because “it doesn’t apply to them.” In actuality, many of the topics discussed do have some degree of impact on the fellowship and becoming knowledgeable of how endocrinology divisions and physician practices are run is a valuable part of your training. Learning about healthcare administration will serve you well both in academic and private practice.

3. Dive into a field of interest, but don’t feel obligated to pick one.

If you feel inclined to dedicate your career to one gland, this is the earliest opportunity you have to define it (but it won’t be your last). Feel free to approach a mentor in your program with questions about your career goals, work on projects dedicated to the subject, research any courses or certifications associated with practice, and be ready to defend this interest in an interview if you are serious about it. Again, you will have many opportunities during your trajectory to choose a field of interest or even change it, and endocrinology as a whole is fascinating (you don’t have to restrict your practice to one single aspect of the science if that’s not your thing).

4. Sharpen your time management skills.

Senior year of fellowship is a period of a lot of “down” time; the clinical responsibilities diminish significantly, so it’s easy to become “slow” and lax. Strive to stay sharp, even if you have all day to write a few patient notes, try to get them done quickly. Make an effort to become comprehensive while being efficient. Develop your organizational skills and make goals to achieve more in less time. Learn to avoid unnecessary texting, web surfing, and other distractions during your workday. One of the most challenging aspects of practice after graduating from training is realizing you don’t have nearly as much time as you used to and now have a whole lot more to do.

5. Get involved in a committee.

Committees are a great way to network within your healthcare system and be a contributing party to organizational change. This provides you an opportunity to demonstrate leadership and acquire knowledge of other aspects of the practice of medicine and medical education. Sometimes, your involvement may help you determine a career path and looks great on a CV. Your graduate medical education office can provide you with a list of committees that you can be involved in.

6. Be a tourist in your town. 

Many trainees are fellows in areas that they have never been before or will move out of after fellowship. It is with great regret that I say I never visited Key West when I trained in south Florida or Lake George when I trained in upstate New York. Take this last year as an opportunity to enjoy the sights, activities, and best places to eat in your area. Trust me, it’ll be harder to get there once you’re gone!

Maria Brito, MD, is an assistant professor of medicine and director of the Thyroid Unit at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine in Great Neck, New York.