What do medical students look for when they are interviewing for a residency spot? What sorts of questions should they be asking when they go on their interviews? Should they ask about the intensity of the patient workloads? Does the quality of the weekly conferences make a difference? Should they inquire about how many research papers are published by the program's residents? Or for the truly crass, should the students ask about the vacation schedule and salary?
I was walking through the hospital the other day and passed a whole gaggle of medical students coming for residency interviews. As they were being led by a current resident, she asked them if they had any questions. One intrepid interviewee then boldly asked, "Do you guys have a gym?" I almost stopped in my tracks as I heard that. It took all of my self restraint from reaching out to slap that idiot upside the head. The resident guide kept her cool and gamely replied that the hospital does not have a gym for the residents but that there are plenty of gyms nearby they can sign up for.
The gym question is so wrong on so many levels. First of all, while the ACGME has relaxed the rules for residency hours, it is still a total grind. You will be exhausted like you've never been exhausted before. You think you're tired during medical school but you haven't experienced total and complete mental and physical fatigue until you've gone through residency. What makes that person think he will have time to go exercise on a routine basis?
Second of all, if you did have the time to work out, you probably should be spending that time more wisely doing medically related activities, like reading and research. With restrictions on work hours, residents have even less time during their three to five year residency commitments to gain all the knowledge they should to become competent physicians afterwards. With the vast explosion in medical information, it is almost incomprehensible that anybody can adequately prepare to become a doctor in such a short amount of time. Going to the gym four times per week? Forget about it.
Finally, what does the gym question say about the priorities of that particular student? He is advancing his career to better understand the human condition and help sick people. But one of his main concerns is how the residency program will help him maintain his big guns and six pack abs. Though maintaining one's health is important, that is not the responsibility of the residency program. Find your own time to exercise in residency. Don't expect a program to offer five star hotel amenities. Remember, if the programs had their way they would still make residents work one hundred plus hours per week with every third night call. They couldn't care less if by the time you finish training you've shrunken down to a pale and ghostly 120 pound weakling.
Sure I knew some residents who could have it all. One of the smartest residents I ever met was in my residency class. She just blew everybody away with her intelligence and wit. She knew every question the attendings threw at her during grand rounds. She seemed to write up papers and abstracts on a monthly basis. And she always had great stories to tell about her latest activities, like kayaking around Catalina Island or surfing in Costa Rica. But I also think she was hyperthyroid and a bit manic. She only needed four hours of sleep each night, if that. So unless you plan on cutting your sleep by half during your training, don't plan on having much time for your workout regimen unless you don't mind being a mediocre resident. But at least you will look fabulous in the naked selfies you post on Snapchat.