Flexibility in Postgraduate Medical Training in the Netherlands

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Abstract

Postgraduate medical training in the Netherlands has become increasingly individualized. In this article, the authors describe current practices for three residency programs at the University Medical Center Utrecht: anesthesiology, pediatrics, and ophthalmology. These programs are diverse yet share characteristics allowing for individualized residency training. New residents enter each program throughout the year, avoiding a large simultaneous influx of inexperienced doctors. The usual duration of each is five years. However, the actual duration of rotations or of the program as a whole can be reduced because of residents’ previous medical experience or demonstration of early mastery of relevant competencies. If necessary, the duration of training can also increase.

Although working hours are already restricted by the European Working Time Directive, most residents choose to train on a part-time basis. The length of their program then is extended proportionally. The extension period added for those residents training part-time can be used to develop specific competencies, complete an elective rotation or research, or explore a focus area. If the resident meets all training objectives before the extension period is completed, the program director can choose to shorten the program length. Recently, entrustable professional activities have been introduced to strengthen workplace-based assessment. The effects on program duration have yet to be demonstrated.

Flexible postgraduate training is feasible. Although improving work–life balance for residents is a necessity, attention must be paid to ensuring that they gain the necessary experience and competencies and maintain continuity of care to ensure that high-quality patient care is provided.

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