The 5 Ws and an H on Residencies
Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes
When discussing residencies, the most common comment I hear from physical therapy students is: "I don't even know where to begin." That's where I come in!
My name is Brooke, I'm a #FreshPT, and orthopaedic physical therapy residency program codirector at Evidence in Motion, and I'm here to help!
So here we go, this is the first of a series posts all about residencies. Let's start with the 5Ws and 1 H.
What is a residency?
Residency is a postprofessional program designed to enhance the knowledge and skills in a certain practice area.
Through ongoing mentorship and clinical and didactic learning, the goals are not only to pass the American Board of Physical Therapist Specialties examination, but to improve your clinical practice and decision-making skills.
The American Board of Physical Therapy Residency and Fellowship Education accredits residency programs in acute care, cardiovascular & pulmonary, clinical electrophysiology, geriatrics, neurology, oncology, orthopaedics, pediatrics, sports, women's health, and wound management.
Why should one pursue a residency?
Residency is a direct route to refining your hands-on skills, growing and maintaining a strong knowledge base in evidence-based practice, building your clinical decision making and reasoning, and advancing your career.
In speaking with many residency graduates, the main reason most of them pursued residency was for the mentorship in their specialty.
Mentorship is important for many reasons, but I feel the main reason is building confidence because this is what most new therapists feel they are lacking within the first few years of their career.
Many employers promise mentorship to new graduates, but in many cases it is very limited or completely forgotten once the therapist appears to be ready to carry a full caseload. While in residency, you have to complete a minimum of 150 one-to-one mentoring hours with an experienced mentor.
Who should pursue a residency?
The answer at first glance can seem simple, anyone.
Anyone who is ready and willing to learn, better themselves, and be put on the fast-track to sit for and pass the specialist certification examination in their area of study.
However, one thing that must be considered is your financial situation. Every situation is different, but you should consider your current debts, ability to potentially take a reduced salary while in residency, and ability to pay for residency yourself while still living comfortably.
This is something that many people battle with when deciding to pursue a traditional residency or looking at residencies that offer flexible or extended options, such as completing in 18+ months instead of the traditional 12 months.
When should I start a residency?
Most residents begin within 3 years of graduation.
Some physical therapists leave school knowing exactly what they want to specialize in, but some like to take a few years to try working in a few different settings before deciding.
However, some clinicians pursue residency after being in practice for 10+ years.
There is no right or wrong answer here.
Where are residencies located?
This is where it gets fun!
There are brick and mortar residencies in many different states all over the country, but most of these do require that you move to wherever they are located, which can be difficult due to the cost for those who have families.
There are many programs that are now offering hybrid and distance residencies where you can work and have a mentor in a location of your choosing, while completing your coursework online and attending hands-on labs throughout your residency.
When thinking of where and when it comes to residency, therapists should think of their learning styles and need for flexibility.
How do you start a residency?
This is different for each person and program.
First, you need to do your research and find a program that best fits your needs.
Do you want to teach during your residency? Do you want to conduct research? Do you want a program that focuses on manual skills?
You need to assess your goals for residency and then find the program that matches.
When you start to narrow down your search you might want to think about a couple of other things. Are you willing to relocate? Are you familiar or comfortable with the teaching style of the program—online versus live classroom?
Once you have answered these questions, then you need to look at the application process and time line. Again, this will be different for every program because some have strict once-a-year application cycles while others are on rolling admissions.
Tweet me @brookejanicky and let me know what questions you want answered in our next post!
Brooke Janicky, PT, DPT, is a physical therapist and board-certified clinical specialist in orthopaedic physical therapy in Baltimore, Maryland, and orthopaedic physical therapy residency program codirector at Evidence in Motion. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @brookejanicky on Twitter.