Medical Resident Wellness

Residents and fellows have rights. Here is how to protect them.

Brendan Murphy , Senior News Writer

Resident and fellow physicians deserve a seat at the table when it comes to advocating for the creation and implementation of institutional policies that ensure their professional development, well-being and rights, according to policy adopted at the 2023 AMA Interim Meeting in National Harbor, Maryland.

Originally adopted as AMA policy more than a decade ago, the Resident and Fellows’ Bill of Rights (PDF) offers a key framework for protecting resident well-being. Now the AMA House of Delegates says that residents and fellows should be a part of the process that ensures the those rights are protected in graduate medical education.

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“What is fundamental is representation and organization of residents and fellows to advocate within their institutions and nationally to influence medical education and workplace policies,” says an AMA Council on Medical Education report whose recommendations were adopted at the Interim Meeting.

“The AMA and Federation of Medicine can advocate for resident and fellow empowerment both within our profession and at the residents and fellows’ sponsoring institutions to facilitate implementation of the rights detailed in this bill of rights. In addition, self-advocacy requires protection from retaliation and threats to livelihood for trainees participating in good faith advocacy,” the council report says.

To ensure residents and fellows are part of the process of ensuring policies related to well-being are in their best interest—and that they have more freedom of movement if their employment at a residency or fellowship program becomes untenable—the delegates adopted new policy to encourage:

  • The formation of peer-led resident and fellow organizations that can advocate for trainees’ interests, as outlined by the AMA Residents and Fellows’ Bill of Rights, at sponsoring institutions.
  • The development of a formal process for resident and fellow physicians to transfer to another graduate medical education program, without penalty, when an employment situation is not sustainable for a trainee or program.

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Delegates also directed the AMA to “investigate promoting the current capacity of FREIDA™, the AMA Residency and Fellowship Database®, to post open positions and adding the ability for FREIDA to facilitate the process of residents and fellows who wish to transfer programs.”

Additionally, the House of Delegates amended existing policy, directing the AMA to:

  • Distribute and promote the Residents and Fellows’ Bill of Rights online and individually to residency and fellowship training programs and encourage changes to institutional processes that embody these principles, including resident and fellow empowerment and peer-selected representation in institutional leadership.
  • Encourage the development of accreditation standards and institutional policies designed to facilitate and protect residents and fellows who seek to exercise their rights.

Read about the other highlights from the 2023 AMA Interim Meeting.