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Tip of the week: Show residents that you care

Once you have been officially named program director, meet with the residents. They need reassurance. Any time there is change in an organization’s leadership, the expectation is that the program will change, and most people don’t like change. Residents are no different—they want know what changes you have in store.

But the first meeting with your residents is probably not the right time to outline specific changes. Instead, discuss with them your philosophy and approach to administering the program. Your first goal during this meeting is to start to gain residents’ trust, and you will have to earn it—you won’t get it based on your title alone. There are many ways to earn the trust of your residents, and it begins with showing them that you care. Show them that you care about their education, that you care about them as people, and that you care about their futures after residency.

After your initial meeting, make yourself available. Residents need to be able to communicate with you easily, and you should make every effort to return any calls or emails as soon as possible. Not only is this polite, but it also shows the residents you view them as colleagues. As you establish yourself in your position, it is imperative to show residents that you respect them. Just as you should keep an open door to hear residents’ concerns, you must avoid embarrassing a resident by disciplining them in front of others at all costs—always discuss disciplinary actions in private, and maintain confidentiality.

This tip is from The Residency Program Director’s Handbook, by Robert V. Higgins, MD.