How Hospital Staff Can Alleviate the Fears of New Residents

Every year hospitals replace a large segment of their seasoned workforce with a group of new residents. Building on lessons learned in the classroom and during clinical rotations, these new MDs are immediately immersed into the daily demands of practicing medicine. The learning curve is steep and often fraught with emotional stress, self-doubt, and exhausting shifts. The journey to become a skilled provider of compassionate, patient-centered healthcare can be an arduous one.

New residents genuinely want to help their patients, yet the fear of making a mistake and causing harm – or even death – can be paralyzing. The fears and challenges new residents face, as they adapt to the grueling routine of hospital life set out for them, are well documented in both the peer-reviewed medical literature and anecdotal accounts.


  1. Gaps in knowledge as well as not recognizing the limits of knowledge
  2. Making mistakes and jeopardizing patient outcomes
  3. Inability to deal with patient death or treating chronic or terminal patients
  4. Failure to develop a specialty’s required clinical skills
  5. Asking superiors too many question, challenging instructions, or asking for help
  6. Humiliation in front of their superiors, peers, and patients
  7. Not dealing effectively with time pressures and demands on time (physical and emotional)

How can hospital administrators and clinical staff help residents allay these fears?

A firm foundation in the practice of medicine, to develop both the science and art of patient care, is critically important. There is a range of time-tested strategies employed by residency programs to help support these trainees. In addition to these, it’s important to provide residents with access to trusted, reliable information resources, like Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine.

For more than six decades, no resource has matched the authority, esteemed scholarship, comprehensive coverage, and scientific rigor of Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine. Consulting this iconic textbook and reference enables residents to acquire foundational knowledge, validate information, support evidence-based clinical decision-making, hone differential diagnoses, and more – helping them reduce uncertainly and fear while building mastery and gaining confidence.

One of the guiding principles that underlies Harrison’s clinically relevant content is the practice of evidence-based medicine.

Evidence-based medicine has become an increasingly important part of routine medical practice and has led to the publication of many practice guidelines. And in the era of electronic health records and value-based healthcare, it’s easy to see why. Evidence-based clinical decisions are formally supported by data, preferably data derived from prospectively designed, randomized, controlled clinical trials. This approach is in sharp contrast to anecdotal experience, which is often biased. Unless they are attuned to the importance of using larger, more objective studies for making decisions, even the most experienced physicians can be influenced to an undue extent by recent encounters with selected patients.

Learn more about the how to support physicians-in-training as they progress from competency, to proficiency, to mastery. Download this white paper, The Practice of Medicine, and share with colleagues responsible for resident education and residents themselves.

Tags: , , , , , ,