What’s in a name?
Per the Standards for the Accreditation of Post-Professional Athletic Training Residency Programs established by CAATE, the mission of a post-professional residency advances preparation of an athletic training practitioner through a planned program of clinical and didactic education in a specialized area utilizing an evidence-based approach to enhance patient care1. Within these residencies, there are eight CAATE approved specialty areas of which the program can be focused. The aim of most programs is to train residents on becoming highly skilled in a physician practice setting, aiming to increase clinical efficiency and improve patient outcomes2. The role of an Athletic Trainer in a residency is to perform a complete patient history and examination, present the findings to the attending physician, and provide patient education about the physician’s diagnosis and plan of care. Depending on the residency, there may also be a component where ATs are trained to be a surgical assist to the attending physician. Specifics of this are dependent on the program, as well as state practice acts and hospital policies. Many programs require an Orthopedic Technologist Certification (OTC), which is done by taking an exam – more to come on this.
When choosing to become an athletic trainer, I was unaware of the vast realm of possibilities of settings in which to work. I had known ATs typically worked with high school, collegiate, and professional sports teams. I was accepted into Boston University (BU)’s entry level master’s program in athletic training, and had my mind set on becoming an athletic trainer for a professional hockey team. At BU, I had the opportunity to have a 4-week immersive, full-time clinical at Children’s Hospital Colorado (CHCO) in a physician practice setting. After a week there, I knew I loved this experience and setting. I immediately called one of my professors from Boston who is heavily involved in the physician practice setting, Mark Laursen, and told him how I was really starting to consider this setting in my future. He could tell from our phone call that this was something I had already become passionate about, and he became my mentor through the residency application process. I then had the opportunity to return to CHCO for my final, 14-week clinical rotation, which further confirmed I was in the right place.
Up until being accepted to Emory’s residency program, passed my OTC exam, and was approaching the start date, I was constantly asking for advice from past and current residents, professors, preceptors, and physicians with whom I worked at CHCO. I felt these conversations helped set accurate expectations of what a residency would entail, and what is expected of myself.
Here are some tips I found to be very helpful throughout the process before beginning the program:
Find a mentor
Without Mark, I know I would not have been as comfortable through the application process. He had some connections to people who have gone through programs, and even some who had gone through the programs for which I was applying. He also had helped refine my resume and cover letter to tailor it for this specific setting and deciphering to which programs I should apply given my interests.
Talk to a current resident
Residents currently in the programs of which you are applying are a great resource, since they’re already experiencing it. Finding one person is a great start to set general expectations but speaking with one from each program you are considering will help set a gauge on what may be different between programs.
Consider multiple programs
Each program has something different to offer, and without applying to and interviewing, you may not know if you have found the right fit for you. In addition, it’s important to keep an open mind. It can be easy to set your mind to one that looks great on paper, but you may realize there is another one that suits you more.
Start preparing for the OTC exam
This test is hard, and many people with whom I’ve spoken with wished they began studying sooner. The application process is also long, so consider looking into this early on. That being said, not all programs require it. Now that CAATE is requiring similar education in the 2020 Standards of Accreditation of Professional Athletic Training Programs, it is the opinion of the ATPPS that additional certification is not necessary to perform in physician practice (if it is not required by the employer)3.
You are also interviewing them
This sole piece of advice was a game changer for me. You have worked hard for your degree and now have the qualifications and ability to be an asset to the program. Not only are they interviewing you, you also want to make sure you are in the right place, so be sure to ask questions and assess each program
Don’t just fake it ‘till you make it. You want to have the best experience possible, and if you are just yourself throughout the process, you have a better assessment of where you’d want to be. This also helps the residencies get a sense of your personality to see how you’d fit in with their teams.
Everyone wants you to succeed
Regardless of which program you may choose, you are a certified athletic trainer and an advocate to the profession. No one wants you to do poorly and everyone does their best to ensure you’ve found the right program and will do all they can to help along the way.
Residency is a great way to further your knowledge, skillset, and quality as a healthcare provider. That being said, residency isn’t for everyone. You can still pursue a career in a physician practice setting without being residency-trained; there is no specific traditional route to get you where you want to be. As a current resident, I am willing to answer any questions if residency is something you are considering.
Morgan Melquist, MS, LAT, ATC, OTC
Athletic Training Resident
Emory Sports Medicine Complex