Residency is a time of stress and turmoil for many residents. The stresses are varied and great, often involving both personal and professional issues. One institutional mechanism that has been shown to help residents cope with stress is the use of residents’ wellness, or assistance, programs. The University of South Florida (USF) College of Medicine developed the USF Residency Assistance Program (RAP) in 1997, modeled after business employee assistance programs but tailored to enhance the well-being of residents. The program was developed in an organized, thoughtful manner starting with a Request for Proposals to all local employee assistance programs and the selection of one of these to run the program. The RAP is broad-based, readily available, easily accessible, totally voluntary and confidential, and not reportable to the state board of medicine. It is well integrated into all residency programs and has had excellent acceptance from the administration; information about access to the RAP is available to all residents through multiple venues. The cost is minimal, at only seven cents a day per resident.
The authors present data from the eight years the RAP has been operating, including information on program use, referral rates, acceptance, and types of problems encountered. One suicide occurred during this time period, and the RAP provided a significant role in grief counseling. Assistance programs are critical to the well-being of residents. The USF program presents a model that can be used by other programs around the country.