To understand the learner’s perspective on the transition from medical school to residency and to develop a conceptual model for how learners experience the transition from student to resident.
This prospective qualitative study explored the experience of first-year residents using semi-structured, one-on-one telephone interviews. Ten first-year residents who participated in the Transition to Residency elective as fourth-year students at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine in April 2018 participated from December 2018–April 2019. Using a 3-phase coding process and grounded theory methodology, the authors identified categories, which they organized into broader themes across interview transcripts and used to develop a conceptual model.
From the perspective of new residents, developing professional identity is the core construct of the transition experience. The residents focused on individual aspects of the experience—professional identity, self-awareness, professional growth, approach to learning, and personal balance—and external aspects—context of learning, professional relationships, and challenges in the context of their new role. Across these 8 categories, 5 broader themes emerged to describe an abrupt change in educational environment, an immersive experience of learning as a resident, ambivalence and tensions around the new role, navigation of professional relationships, and balance and integration of working in medicine with personal lives and goals. A conceptual model illustrates this phenomenon as a cell where professional identity and growth (the nucleus) is surrounded by interactions with patients and other members of the medical team (in the cytoplasm) that create a substrate for learning and development.
This study suggests that being immersed in the residency experience is how medical students transition to resident physicians. Educational interventions that allow learners to acclimate to the experience of being a doctor through gradual exposure to authentic interactions have the potential to enhance development and bridge the abrupt transition.