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How Does a Medical Resident Work?

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Read what new Working host Aisha Harris asked a Boston-based physician about death, dermatology, and the 80-hour workweek.

Photo illustration by Slate . Photos by megaflopp/Shutterstock and Franck Boston/Shutterstock.

We’re posting transcripts of Working, Slate ’s podcast about what people do all day, exclusively for Slate Plus members. What follows is the transcript for Episode 1 , in which Slate culture writer Aisha Harris talks to Alexandra Charrow, a medical resident at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. In this podcast, Charrow describes a typical day in her life, how she’s learning to grapple with death, and how her job is far from Grey’s Anatomy . To learn more about Working, click here.

Aisha Harris is a Slate staff writer.

Aisha Harris: Welcome to Working, Slate ’s podcast about what people do all day. I’m Aisha Harris. I cover culture at Slate and I’ll be your host for this third season of the show.

If you missed the first two seasons of the show, hosted by David Plotz and Adam Davidson, respectively, you should definitely check them out. This season some of our guests will be inspired by the ideas you’ve sent us. In fact, this first episode came from one of those listener recommendations. Like you, I was curious about a job that we often see performed by very, very good-looking actors in medical dramas on TV. So, what’s your name and what do you do?

Alexandra Charrow: My name is Alex Charrow, and I am a resident.

Harris: I don’t know much

about what that world is like. Mostly my experience is based off of Grey’s Anatomy. I’ve been watching it for 10 years. So, I guess what I’d like to know is, what does being a medical resident really mean? Like, are you a doctor? Where are you in your education?

Charrow: Explaining residency to people is sort of like explaining Game of Thrones to somebody who’s never watched it. Like, you have do a huge amount of world-building just to be able to give anybody any kind of semblance of a plot. I don’t even watch Game of Thrones. but that’s the sense I get from looking over my husband’s shoulder when he’s watching it.

I should back up and say, I am a physician. I graduated from medical school, and when you graduate from medical school, you sign on to be part of an apprenticeship, a paid apprenticeship, and that apprenticeship lasts between three and seven years depending on what your subspecialty is that you go into. I am a second-year resident. I’m doing a somewhat atypical training process in that I am getting board-certified in two things at the same time. I’m getting board-certified in internal medicine—that’s, generally speaking, a three-year residency—and I’m also getting board-certified in dermatology, which is a four-year residency. I will do the two of them together in five years.

I’ve completed my intern year, which is the first year of anybody’s residency, and I did that in internal medicine. Now I’m continuing on through the rest of my residency.

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