What Is Involved in a Primary Care Residency?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Med school graduates must complete a residency training program.
Med school graduates must complete a residency training program.

A primary care residency trains doctors who act as a first point of contact for patients entering the medical system. This includes internists, pediatricians, and family medicine specialists. Practitioners in primary care encounter patients with a variety of conditions and may handle emergencies, hospitalizations, routine ambulatory care, and the management of chronic health conditions. In residency, doctors have an opportunity for clinical practice under supervision along with seminars and other training opportunities to develop skills.

To enter a primary care residency, doctors need to complete medical school and pass examinations. They apply for residencies at the end of medical school, selecting programs offering the kind of training they are interested in. The length of time spent in residency depends on the specialty, but is usually approximately three years. Residents take on more and more responsibilities as they progress through the program and develop the experience and skills necessary to provide increasingly complex direct patient care.

The structure of residency may rotate doctors through several affiliated medical facilities, giving them an opportunity to practice in different clinical environments. They also have an opportunity to pursue specialty training in particular areas of interest in their advanced training. This can lay the groundwork for a fellowship which offers detailed training in a specific subarea of clinical practice. During a primary care residency, physicians are often expected to attend continuing education lectures, workshops, and labs.

Conferences like a morbidity and mortality conference to discuss bad outcomes in clinical cases can also be required. Doctors may present at this conference when their own cases are involved and also have an opportunity to ask questions and discuss other cases. Teaching hospitals use all outcomes as learning experiences, from unavoidable deaths to injuries that could have been prevented by a more attentive or experienced care team. During a primary care residency, physicians work with a variety of practitioners, including specialists, nurses, and support staff, to provide patient care and learn from the experience.

Teaching hospitals can expose physicians to cases they might not see in ordinary practice. The staff at such facilities may be involved in research and at times provide cutting-edge care to patients, which draws people who have unusual or challenging medical conditions. This experience in a primary care residency can be valuable in a doctor’s later work, as it may provide an opportunity to get familiar with rare conditions that primary care providers need to be able to identify and treat in their practices.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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    • Med school graduates must complete a residency training program.
      Med school graduates must complete a residency training program.