From Resident to Attending

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Author: Meaghan Mercer, DO
AAEM/RSA 2015-2016 Immediate Past President
Originally Published: Common Sense May/June 2015

As residency comes to an end, I realize that although I feel ready for life as an attending from a clinical standpoint, we are provided little education on life outside of academia. Many questions remain, such as: What tests do I have to take, what do I have to do to get credentialed, how do I stay up to date? As we transition back into the “real world” we have to acclimate to managing our own affairs.

If you haven’t looked at the website, do it now. Initial application for the board exam (Qualifying Exam per ABEM terminology) lasts from May 1-November 5 and costs $960. Yes, you can and should apply prior to finishing residency. The qualifying exam will be administered November 16 – 21, 2015. Plan ahead to have ample time to study and have access to your desired date to take your exam. Once you pass your written exam you will then be given a date in the spring or fall of 2016 to take your oral board exam. After you pass the oral board you will be officially board certified for ten years. However, you are not done. To maintain your certification you must participate in maintenance of certification (MOC). Requirements in the first five full years of certification include the following: Passing four ABEM LLSA tests, one of which must be the patient safety LLSA; completing an average of 25 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditsTM or equivalent, with an average of eight of those credits being self-assessment; completing an Assessment of Practice Performance (APP) patient care practice improvement (PI) activity; and completing an APP patient-centered Communication/Professionalism activity. For more information go to

Staying Up to Date
If you never open a book again, your current medical knowledge will be obsolete within two years. You have to learn how to read and study when someone isn’t making you. After you graduate, all educational content gets more expensive. Decide what has worked best for you and how to best spend your money. Don’t forget to stay involved. Maintaining professional society membership is important and should not be neglected, so be sure to allocate funds for membership. Many organizations have reduced membership for young physicians, for example, if you sign up for YPS ( before you graduate you get 18 months for the price of 12.

The Job
At this stage most senior residents have likely signed a contract and have set up a job. Remember that state licensing, DEA, and hospital credentialing process can be extensive and prolonged. To make the process easier for this fall: get your CV up to date and have it reviewed for style and errors, decide who you want to ask for letters of recommendation and provide them with you CV and list of accomplishments, log all of your procedures, and start to research different job opportunities in your desired area. Consider starting to contact potential employers in the late spring or early summer the year prior to graduation to let them know you are interested and to notify you when they are starting their interview process.

I have had the privilege to be a part of the AAEM/RSA for the past six years and I wanted to thank the numerous people who have impacted not only my career, but also my life. Mentors, mentees, and friends have left amazing memories mixed in with the joy of exploring conference cities. I grew up in the world of emergency medicine with RSA, and felt their support all the way. My appreciation for this organization cannot be put into words, but I will simply say, “Thank you RSA!”

Finally, as I graduate into the world, here are some final thoughts. Be kind and patient. You never know how a smile or common courtesy can impact those around you. Make time for yourself. At the scientific assembly I was reminded that if we cannot take care of ourselves, we will likely not be able to take care of others. Exercise might seem like an insurmountable hurdle but it is critical for your own wellbeing. Never forget that everyone is struggling. Nurture those around you and teach with encouragement. Find joy in the journey.