A Typical Day Of A Medical School Resident (In the Emergency Department) - Prep For Med School

A Typical Day Of A Medical School Resident (In the Emergency Department)

A Typical Day Of A Medical School Resident (In the Emergency Department)

One of the biggest questions I get from medical students is what it’s a typical day like as a resident? The stereotype of a resident schedule is the neverending, long hours that basically imprison you in the hospital. 

Fortunately, that’s not exactly the case! Even as an emergency medicine resident in New York City—a field known for extremely high burnout rates and a city notorious for grueling work schedules—the schedule is not as bad as you think. I think this doesn’t only apply to my specialty, but most specialties in general—the hours aren’t as bad as many people think. This is especially true as you get to the last couple years of your residency where you will work less hours.


In the article below, I am going to go over what a typical day is like for me in the emergency department as a resident.

Hours Worked Per Month As an Emergency Medicine Resident

Here is the typical monthly shift schedule for an EM resident.

  1. Intern year: Nineteen 12-hour shifts/month (228 hours a month)
  1. Post-grad year 2: Eighteen 12-hour shifts/month (216 a month)
  1. Post-grad year 3 : Sixteen 12-hour shifts/month (192 hours a month)
  1. Post-grad year 4 : Fifteen 12-hour shifts/month (180 hours a month)

What happens to all the other days of the month? It’s a day off! You can spend that time doing research, honing your knowledge of your specialty, or just taking that time to chill.

What A Typical Day Is Like For An ER Resident: 

An emergency medicine resident typically works 12-hour days. So the following is a typical schedule of a workday for me.

4:45 am

I generally wake up really early because I recently moved to Brooklyn, which is quite far from my hospital. My commute is around 40 minutes. I’ll roll around in bed, maybe look at my phone for a bit, and get up at around 4:50 am.

5:00 am

I am a workout freak – working out in the morning just puts you in a great mood and sets the tone for the rest of the day. I’ll either run for 45 minutes or get on my Peloton I have in my apartment. 

5:45 am

I’ll jump in for a quick shower, and pour myself a coffee to sip while getting ready. I usually have everything ready the night before, so it usually only takes me 20 minutes to get myself out the door. 

6:10 am

I’m on my way to the subway station. My commute is longer than I’d like, but I do my best to use this time for learning or improving myself. I’ll usually listen to an emergency medicine podcast or an audiobook. 

7:00 am

I make it to work and meet up with the night team to get a sign-out. A sign-out includes a summary of all the patients in your zone and will highlight what lab results/imaging are pending, and what the likely disposition is (will they be discharged? admitted?). This usually takes about 15 minutes. 

7:20 am

Morning report is another ritual of our residency, and I’m such a fan. A 2nd, 3rd, or 4th year that was on the critical care team will present a topic they saw during their shift. Usually, it is performed as a case, and they’ll ask a junior resident how to manage the patient. 

The question/answer format is a great way to learn emergency medicine, and it’s nice to get a learning point in before we start our day. 

7:45 am – 3:00 pm 

I start seeing new patients that come on the board. Usually, it’s pretty quiet in the first hours of the morning. But about 11 am, patients start trickling in. As a 2nd year, I usually can balance about 5-6 patients at one time. 

New York hospitals are notorious for scut work, but honestly, I don’t mind it. Not only do I see my patients and develop differentials on what they could be experiencing, but I also place IV lines in, draw labs, and push patients to imaging. There’s very little downtime, and you’re always on your feet. It’s probably my favorite thing about emergency medicine.

3:00 pm -3:30 pm

The patient volume has not improved and there are many to be seen. You still need to take care of yourself though, so I try to carve out time for lunch. I’ll either have lunch in the resident lounge or eat at my desk while I write notes. 

6:30 pm

I’ll wrap up my patients and make sure that all the critical labs or difficult procedures are done before the next team comes. It’s the respectable thing to do! 

7:00 pm

I usually see about 14-18 patients a day. The new team comes on at 7 pm, and I’ll sign out any pending workups I have for them.

8:00 pm

I take the subway home, and arrive at around 8:00 pm. I’ll either take a walk in the neighborhood, chill at home and eat dinner in front of the television, or talk with friends/family. 

9:30pm

If I work the next day, I’m usually in bed by now! If I don’t, I’ll give myself a little leeway and clean up the apartment, hang out with friends, take a walk around the city, and delay bedtime for a bit later.

What do you think of the schedule? Do you find it stressful or doable? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below.

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