The clock strikes 3:00 a.m. After nearly 24 hours of rushing to patients' bedsides, the Ob-Gyn resident finally has a moment to catch her breath. Unfortunately, the break is short-lived. Her stat pager begins to beep - jolting her back into work mode. Immediately, thoughts of sleep are pushed out of her mind as she races toward the delivery room. A woman pregnant with twins is dilating faster than usual, and the potentially complicated case requires all hands on desk. Thankfully, despite a few tense moments, two healthy baby boys are delivered soon after the resident's arrival on the scene. The babies' sharp, ear-splitting cries serve as a welcome lullaby for this hard-working resident who can finally hang up her coat and - if only for a few fleeting hours - give in to sleep.
The demanding life of an Ob-Gyn resident is on that only a select few successfully manage. Training is rigorous, with residents required to work days, nights, and long shifts. The residents quickly discover that "You can never truly be ready for what it means to be a resident until you're there and in the heat of the moment." . The residents live by the philosophy: 'Eat when you can...."
The University of Wisconsin Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology residency program's mission is to train outstanding obstetricians and gynecologists equipped to become leaders in the field. During the four years of residency, Ob-Gyn residents must learn high- and low-risk obstetrical care of patients, become proficient at gynecologic surgical procedures, and provide obstetrics, gynecologic, and general healthcare to women in the clinical setting. "The learning curve is pretty steep," says Ob-Gyn resident Dr. Michael Balistreri. "The interns primarily take care of the low-risk obstetrical patients. But once you become a second-year, you start taking care of more high-risk obstetrical patients and learning gynecologic procedures."
For fourth-year residents, daily responsibilities on labor and delivery are even more intense and challenging. A typical day begins at 5:45 a.m., and involves "5-8 labor patients, 5-8 antepartum patients, and 20-25 postpartum patients." The day is spent "running about carrying for patients: deliveries, cesareans, admissions of antepartum patients, dealing with postpartum complications, and planning for the rest of the week." Even after returning home at 7:00 pm., residents must finish charting and attempt to make progress on upcoming didactic presentations. The alarm comes very quickly for the start of the next day!
Luckily for residents, the Ob-Gyn Department provides a supportive environment, with protected time specifically dedicated to learning. Thursday mornings are an especially critical component of the residents' education. Beginning at 7:00 a.m., Thursday mornings commence with the "Case Conference, where residents present some of the complicated cases from the week before," says Dr. Balistreri. Next come Grand Rounds, which typically involve guest lecturers from all over the country presenting on important topics in the specialty. The remainder of the morning is set aside for didactic sessions carefully planned to target all levels of residency education.
All of the residents highly value the opportunity to practice surgeries in the Simulation Lab, as well as gain firsthand experience caring for patients through the Resident Continuity Clinic. The Resident Continuity Clinic, which is now housed in a brand-new facility, is staffed by generalist faculty, but the intent is for patients to see the resident physician as their doctor and for our residents to gain experience in the direct care of patients in the outpatient setting.
When it comes to the education of an Ob-Gyn resident, however, the most valuable aspect of all is the knowledge gained from trusted, expert faculty members. It is evident that the people in positions of leadership, like Dr. Rice, Dr. Hartenbach, and all of the division chairs are very much focused on making sure that all the residents get an exceptional education.. And when education translates to preventing medical crises and saving patient lives, one sees that the transfer for knowledge every day from UW faculty to Ob-Gyn resident is, indeed, nothing short of heroic.