What is a Resident Doctor | 5 Residency for Doctors

What is a Resident Doctor – Overview

If you’ve ever been to a hospital, you must have encountered resident doctors. Have you ever wondered the difference between resident and practicing doctors?

In simple terms, a medical resident is a medical school graduate. These are doctors in training who are participating in a graduate medical education (GME) program.

Commonly, resident doctors are called “residents,” while those in the first year of training are called “interns.” Resident doctors primarily work in hospitals but may also work in other healthcare settings, such as clinics, during their training.

They are engaged in continuing their medical education and are training in their choice of medicinal specialty.

Residency programs vary, generally lasting from 3 to 5 years, depending on the specialty.

The trained doctor is expected to provide direct patient care during the residency. Their duties may involve diagnosing, managing, and curing patients’ health disorders.

Every resident must work under a doctor’s or senior resident’s supervision in a healthcare facility.

Generally, junior residents are initially allotted more straightforward tasks and less complex responsibilities. As their experience and education grow, their responsibilities become more complex and inclusive.

What Does a Resident Doctor Do

A resident doctor may work in any specialty department within a hospital, such as emergency care, general patient wards, and intensive care units.

Resident doctors are expected to learn the following during their residency program:

  • Recommending diagnostic tests and interpreting their results
  • Performing physical examinations of patients
  • Participating in or performing medical treatment procedures
  • Keeping a record of the patient’s medical history

A significant portion of a resident doctor’s work in a hospital involves various duties beyond rounds, such as patient care, administrative tasks, and emergency response.

This involves a group of residents accompanying an experienced doctor or healthcare professional around the ward, checking the patient’s health condition, treatment, and progress.

This way, resident doctors can assess the patient’s health and determine treatment progress. They can then make necessary adjustments to make the treatment more effective and safer.

Resident doctors may have rotations in outpatient departments and clinics as part of their training, though their primary work location is usually a hospital. This requires them to work directly with patients during examinations and treatments.

While resident doctors may interact with patients’ families, counseling and coordinating care typically involve a team approach, including more senior healthcare providers.

Additionally, resident doctors continue their education by participating in formal seminars and conferences.

What are the Education and Training Required for a Resident Doctor?

To be a resident doctor, you must first complete medical school and acquire a diploma, such as a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or a similar degree.

While in medical school, you are required to gain direct clinical experience. This means that you will need to work directly with patients in a significant capacity.

Some of the fields at medical school where you can gain clinical experience include:

  • Recording patient medical history
  • Performing diagnostic examinations and interpreting their results
  • Counseling and consulting patients, their families, and other healthcare team members
  • Prescribing and interpreting diagnostic lab results
  • Performing medical or surgical procedures under close supervision of a doctor/surgeon

Once you have the necessary educational qualifications, you must acquire a license from the state (or jurisdiction) where you work.

This is important if you want to provide healthcare services during your residency period. Junior residents are usually given restricted training licenses.

Resident doctors typically work under a limited or restricted license during their residency and must obtain a full, unrestricted license upon completion of their training to practice independently.

As a resident doctor, you should work closely with experienced doctors and healthcare specialists. This is an excellent way to gain extensive medical knowledge and experience in inpatient care.

During the residency period, the supervising doctor guides, mentors and instructs resident doctors on patient safety and gives feedback on their performance.

These aspects are essential for better educational, professional, and personal development.

Top Residency for Doctors

Let’s take a quick look at some of the top choices of specialty residency programs for prospective doctors in the US in 2021:

1 – Residency in Internal Medicine

Internal medicine focuses on preventing and treating diseases that affect adults. A residency in internal medicine usually lasts three years, and internists are those who specialize in it.

2 – Residency in Family Medicine

Doctors specializing in family medicine are usually considered primary healthcare providers. These doctors are trained to provide complete healthcare to people of all ages and can also refer patients to specialists when needed. A residency program in family medicine usually lasts around three years.

3 – Residency in Pediatrics

Pediatrics is related to diagnosing, treating, preventing, and managing illnesses and ailments that afflict infants, children, and adolescents. A residency in a pediatrics program usually lasts for 3 years, too.

4 – Residency in Emergency Medicine

Doctors who choose a residency in emergency medicine undergo training in diagnosing and treating various diseases in an emergency healthcare setting. These doctors collaborate with a team of nurses and specialists to provide optimal emergency healthcare services.

Residency in emergency medicine typically lasts three to four years.

5 – Residency in Anesthesiology

Anesthesiologists manage patients’ anesthesia and monitor their vital signs before, during, and after surgery.

Anesthesiologists administer anesthesia and continuously monitor the patient to manage anesthesia effects and prevent complications during and immediately after surgery. Typically, a residency in anesthesiology lasts for around 4 years too.

The tenures of doctor residency training for other specialties are:

SpecialtyResidency Training Length
Dermatology3 years
General Surgery5 years
Neurology3 years
Neurosurgery7 years
Obstetrics/Gynecology4 years
Otolaryngology5 years
Pathology4 years
Physical Medicine3 – 4 years
Plastic Surgery6 years
Psychiatry4 years
Radiation Oncology4 years
Radiology/Diagnostic4 years
Transitional/Preliminary1 year
Urology5 years


Doctors ‘ residency is an essential part of their overall medical education. This is when doctors in training gain first-hand experience working with patients.

The direct supervision of experienced doctors makes residency programs effective and excellent for a fruitful professional career.

See Also

Free Samples for Doctors’ Offices

How to Become a Physician

How to Become a Physician Assistant

How to Become a Military Doctor

Medical Apps for Doctors

Non Clinical Physician Jobs

Current Version
April 11, 2024
Updated By
Franco Cuevas, MD
October 22, 2021
Written By
Shubham Grover

Follow us