Performance Problems

The ability to perform means something different when you're discussing medicine. In many fields, poor performance could affect the company's bottom lines or the individual's job security. In medicine, poor performance may cost lives.

It's no surprise that residency programs view residents' performance with intense scrutiny. Your residency program may determine that your performance doesn't meet its standards. As The American Surgeon journal explains, most residency programs have broad power to sanction you. The journal notes that “Legal opinion has stated that it is not necessary to wait until a patient is harmed to dismiss a resident.”

If you face any sanctions related to a performance problem, hire an attorney-advisor as soon as possible. They will try to resolve the issue so that you can remain a resident and avoid potential career-altering consequences.

How Residency Programs Gauge Residents' Performance

How residency programs evaluate their students is up to the program itself. Common standards for evaluating residents' performance include:

Medical Knowledge

You're expected to have requisite knowledge of medicine once you reach residency. Much of this knowledge may result from your time in medical school. At a minimum, residents may be expected to:

You may have undergone one or more performance reviews while in medical school. You may face similar performance reviews as a resident. During such reviews, those tasked with evaluating you may voice concerns about your medical knowledge. At this point, you may want to contact an attorney-advisor. Should evaluators determine you've failed to improve your knowledge, your program's next step may be to dismiss you.

Interactions with Patients

Patient care is the centerpiece of medicine and of any residency experience. If you aren't serving patients effectively and compassionately, then you can expect your evaluators to take notice.

It is increasingly difficult to gauge what “effective” patient interactions are. The Journal of General Internal Medicine explains that interactions between patients and physicians average 15 to 20 minutes and may be significantly less than that for overworked residents. It may be difficult to evaluate a patient in this short timeframe and just as difficult to evaluate a resident's interaction with said patient.

Of course, residents must always be respectful, empathetic, and compassionate when dealing with patients. In many cases, though, a resident's perceived shortcoming in the area of patient care may be clarified with a proper explanation. An attorney-advisor can provide context for any allegation of substandard patient care levied against you.

Communication with Colleagues, Fellows, and Attending Physicians

Residents are generally expected to:

  • Follow the instructions of superiors, including fellows and attending physicians
  • Be respectful in all interactions with colleagues and superiors
  • Be honest in their discussions with others
  • Be straightforward and assertive in situations that require it
  • Exhibit the level of communication skills necessary to be a doctor

Communication deficits ultimately hurt the patient. If your residency program decides you're not communicating in the manner it requires, you may face discipline.


Reliability is a key trait of any doctor. Your residency program may gauge your reliability, at least in part, by your willingness to show up on time and ready to practice. If you have a number of absences that your residency program takes issue with, then there may be a valid explanation.

Response to Instruction

Your resident program will evaluate your response to instruction and criticism. Willingness to admit wrongdoing and knowledge gaps, and to take instruction to improve such deficits, will benefit you during residency and beyond.

If a residency program deems you non-receptive to instruction, it may bring the matter to your attention. If it determines you've failed to improve your response to critiques, then it may dismiss you. An attorney-advisor will exercise your right to due process in such an instance.

Ability to Find Solutions

Patients expect their doctors to find solutions to their problems. Utilizing their research, training, and experience, the best doctors diagnose patients' ailments and provide appropriate treatment. Your residency program may expect you to show proficiency in these areas.

Your Residency Program May Offer Remediation

The Journal of Graduate Medical Education notes that residents and fellows may remediate portions of their medical training. Re-doing portions of your residency may allow you to avoid dismissal—and may be completely necessary.

However, future employers may view remediation during residency as a strike against you. You may have other options that allow you to avoid remediation, should you wish to do so. An attorney-advisor will advise you about this issue and any other residency issues that you're facing.

Hire an Attorney-Advisor If You're Facing a Medical Residency Performance Problem

You've completed medical school, and you're well on your way to achieving your dreams in the medical field. You haven't made it just yet, though, and an issue during residency can be enough to submarine your professional goals.

If you're facing a medical school issue, you need a champion in your corner experienced in helping medical residents overcome the challenges that can arise on their journey to becoming a doctor. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm can help. Call us today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case or contact us online.

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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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