Sources of Stress for Residents and Recommendations for Programs to Assist Them


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Abstract

Bridging the gap between graduation from medical school and being board eligible in a medical specialty is a lengthy and arduous process. The fact that stress is typical during the residency training period is well-documented in the literature, as are its many situational, professional, and personal sources, which the author reviews: heavy work-load, sleep deprivation, difficult patients, poor learning environments, relocation issues, isolation and social problems, financial concerns, cultural and minority issues, information overload, and career planning issues. Stress can also stem from and exacerbate gender-related issues and problems for significant others, spouses, and family members. The author also describes less commonly documented sources of stress—often overlooked or postponed so long that stresses are inevitable for all concerned. These are associated with residents who perform marginally and in some cases should not have been passed on from medical school, or who are studying specialties not compatible with their skills and personalities, or who foster severe interpersonal problems on the job. Common effects of stress include anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive trends, hostility, and alcohol and substance abuse.To respond to the problems that these many stressors present to residents, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) requires that all post—medical-school medical training programs make assistance services available for all residents. The author outlines essential elements of an assistance program, states how important such problems can be in saving both residents and their institutions needless difficulties and costs, and presents important issues for the consideration of all involved in residents' training.

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