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How to Build Trust with Attendings During Residency

Friday, October 21, 2016
By The TrueLearn Team

Transitioning from medical school to residency can be a difficult process for some. Gaining clinical responsibility and gaining trust with your attendings goes hand in hand.

Your attendings have a delicate task – managing the care of the patient all while educating residents. On the onset, they will maintain strict control over your cases and as you build trust with them, they will give you more freedom. Attendings are guided by the ACGME to provide the proper amount of oversight that ensures safe and effective care of the patient, while at the same time increasing residents’ independence and authority in cases.

Building Trust

First-year residents will be given the most supervision from a faculty member who is physically present. As an eager and new resident, this may be frustrating and you may feel like you are being restricted.

Over the first few months of residency you’ll need to show you’ve mastered relevant skills and that you abide by the limits to your authority. Mistakes will occur, and your attendings will expect that. Be quick to admit mistakes and follow your attendings advice on how to avoid the same outcome in the future. By doing all of these things, you’ll gain trust and begin to be given an increasing amount of responsibility.

The key to a successful residency experience is trust. As a resident, you need to trust that over time your attendings will provide you with guidance, feedback, the teaching you need to be successful and ultimately more independence as you exhibit that you’ve mastered methods and skills. It’s also crucial that you trust that your questions are welcome (yes, even those late-night ones) and that your attendings are there to assist you when needed.

As you build trust and a good reputation with your attendings, it could open doors for you outside of your current program. Your attendings may very well introduce you to their colleagues in other programs, increasing your potential for job mobility and/or mentorship possibilities.

Finally, it’s important you treat hospital staff well. Just like the way you treat support staff during your interviews is influential in the program’s decision to bring you on board, how you treat the hospital staff will definitely affect the impression your attendings have of you.

Remember, patient safety is key. Your attendings have been doing this for years, if not decades. They have the experience to know what is best for your development and patient outcomes. Trust doesn’t come overnight, but if you practice what we have outlined above you’ll be well on your way.

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