Larger Aspirations: Support for Organizational Resident Involvement

When program directors review applications for potential candidates for the incoming intern class, one of the aspects assessed is the presence of extracurricular activities and leadership roles. This involvement can indicate that the applicant is a well-rounded person and someone who can add value to the residency. Senior medical students are often aflame with excitement at the prospect of achieving their many ambitious goals. But when starting residency training, new residents find themselves in a novel environment, adjusting to the role of a resident, integrating into a new system, meeting many new colleagues, and just focusing on striving to be the best emergency physician they can be. Not uncommonly their previously burning focuses are shifted elsewhere. These are challenges faced by all residents, and often may limit their involvement outside of the quotidian.

Several emergency medicine organizations provide opportunities for residents to become involved in our specialty.

So, how does the same individual who was highly involved as a medical student continue their extracurricular activities and integrate themselves into emergency medicine at the regional and national level during residency? There are certain aspects that need to be considered when trying to achieve this goal, many of which are regarded as major obstacles for the resident. Lack of support from program leadership, and schedule and financial constraints may deter residents from taking the steps needed to get involved.

Program leadership has to be supportive of resident involvement in emergency medicine organizations. Their actual, or even perceived, support can either nurture or extinguish a resident's aspirations. On their part, residents should identify their interests early on in their training program if possible. Often by doing so their program director and faculty mentors can facilitate involvement for the resident. A number of programs have specialty tracks within their training curriculum, and program directors can assist by allocating a specific track to the resident based upon their interests.

Limitations of the clinical schedule can be a real issue preventing residents from being involved in regional and national organizations. While a clinical education is the primary purpose of residency, few would argue against the idea that it is the only responsibility of residency training. Programs can develop strategies that can overcome the barriers to outside involvement and assist in creating rounded residents. When making the annual rotation schedule for residents, programs can purposefully schedule residents on off-service rotations or elective blocks during the academic year when certain national meetings occur. This may increase the likelihood that residents will be able to attend these conferences. In addition, if a program would like to send a specific PGY class to attend a certain conference during the academic year, the program can try to assign additional residents from other PGY levels to the emergency department rotations in order to ensure adequate resident coverage.

Financial constraints can also impede resident involvement in regional and national organizations. Residency programs have limited budgets and may not be able to pay for the expenses of registration, lodging, and travel for the resident to attend a specific national conference. However, programs can implement creative mechanisms to increase the financial resources for the program. Establishing an alumni fund for residency educational activities is one option. Programs can contact alumni on a regular basis identifying various educational initiatives and request a donation of funds towards achieving these goals. In addition, residents should take advantage of the various scholarships and grants for national meeting attendance available through emergency medicine organizations. Most national organizations provide a handful of disbursements to provide some financial assistance to residents to attending conferences.

Several emergency medicine organizations provide opportunities for residents to become involved in our specialty. These include the American Academy of Emergency Medicine (AAEM), the American Academy of Emergency Medicine Resident and Student Association (AAEM-RSA), the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), the Council of Emergency Medicine Residency Directors (CORD), the Emergency Medicine Residents' Association (EMRA), and the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine (SAEM). Through joining and becoming active in these organizations, residents gain not only knowledge about our field and the medicine we practice, but can also further their academic goals, network and find jobs, participate in advocacy, and gain a greater understanding of the medical landscape. To further define and settle into their niche, residents can also become members of specific academies, committees, communities of practice, interests groups, sections, and task forces within these organizations.

Lack of support from program leadership, and schedule and financial constraints may deter residents from taking the steps needed to get involved.

By gaining exposure to emergency medicine organizations during training, residents can become involved in projects that are related to their specific subspecialty areas of interests. Residency programs that foster and support their residents' involvement in these organizations will themselves become stronger training programs. Their residents will develop a sense of purpose and accomplishment by representing their program and having a role in the advancement of emergency medicine. There are so many opportunities out there available for emergency medicine residents. Our training programs should serve as the bellows – the small fire of desire for involvement inside each individual can be stoked to a raging blaze by a little assistance and encouragement from program leaders. We can make the residents today the leaders we will need tomorrow. I urge both residents and residency programs to take the next important step and commit to becoming more involved. Doing so will benefit residents, training programs, and emergency medicine as a whole.