Meet the Residents Q&A

July 13, 2021

Brittany Barthelemy, DO, Family Medicine Resident

There is no better way to get a sense of what training is like at Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) than to talk with current residents. NGMC hosted a Zoom event where students asked Internal Medicine, General Surgery and Family Medicine residents those burning questions you all want to know!

Here is how it went down with Dr. Barthelemy, PGY-2 Family Medicine resident providing the answers!

What are the interactions like between residents within each program and inter-program?

Several of the rotations are scheduled to work alongside different specialties. For example, in emergency medicine there will always be an internal medicine resident and surgery resident scheduled on that rotation. While you may not always have the safe shifts, you still may find yourself working alongside them often. Other rotations include Night Float and ICU, and if that’s not enough, you may find yourself consulting your co-residents that are on specialty services and surgery. 

What do programs look for in terms of prospective applicants, USMLE, other factors?

While things like board scores and how you did in medical school may have a role, our attendings are very honest and open. They are looking for applicants that share the same ideals as our hospital, those who want to serve the community of Gainesville and are teachable.

Are attendings readily available or have you ever felt alone and not able to have access to your attending in a timely manner? 

I have always felt that attendings are accessible and available when I need help. They are supportive, willing to mentor and find teaching points for personal and professional growth. Overall, our attendings find the right balance of allowing independence and oversight on an individual basis as they try to tailor each person’s educational growth and experience.

Do you feel that your safety is supported on psych wards; have you ever felt in danger without the appropriate staffing for your own personal protection?

I personally have not encountered any dangerous situations while on psych wards. However it is important to know and understand what type of atmosphere you may be entering. Any patient who poses a higher risk to staff will often have a security guard present or a sitter in or outside of the room at all times. If at any point you don’t feel comfortable seeing a patient, you will have the support to speak up and say so. For more difficult patients that can pose a safety risk, you will often see these patients alongside your attendings.

If you were to go back in time, would you tell yourself to apply again to this program?

I was fortunate to match at my first choice of residency. While it was a new program at the time, I knew from interview day that NGMC had the type of environment I wanted to learn and train in. I have not regretted my choice to train with this hospital. “If you know, you know.”

What are the strengths and weaknesses of your program?

One of the major strengths of this hospital is the community and learning environment. I truly feel this hospital system has stuck to and fostered the “growth mindset.” We are encouraged to ask questions and speak up when we don’t understand or know an answer. There are so many staff/attendings in the hospitals and clinics willing to help and teach. A weakness of our program would be that we are a new program and there are some growing pains that go along with it. You have to have grace that these programs are developing with you. But the beautiful part of that, is that you as a resident get to help develop these residency programs into all they can be.

Can you describe your experience as being part of an inaugural class; do you have any advice to individuals who could potentially be an inaugural class?

Being part of an inaugural class can be intimidating. You spend a lot more time 1:1 with attending physicians and don’t often have an upper level you can reach out to before you talk with your physician. Personally, I feel this helped me develop confidence in myself as a physician. I have learned how to comfortably say “I don’t know” and ask for help, but I’ve also learned how to find answers on my own so I have all information I possibly can when presenting to attendings. I also think it is important as an inaugural class to politely speak up if you feel something isn’t working well. Faculty will always be willing to hear your concerns and suggestions if you have them. The worst that can happen is they say no. Don’t be afraid to ask.

Can you describe the feedback systems in place?

We use Medhub to formally evaluate our rotations and attendings after every block. In the same way attendings also use Medhub to officially evaluate your performance after every rotation via a standardized form. Informal feedback is always available. Your attending may choose to give this to you at any moment; however I think it’s important to ask your attendings on any rotation how you are doing half way through the rotation and if there’s anything you can improve on.

How has the classes helped contribute to change the residency?

Every class brings something different to the residency, and each resident provides a unique perspective. I view it like a sports team or a music group; each player or musician can bring that special “it” factor and can contribute to the development of the residency. Our size of each residency program is ideal because each resident has the opportunity to be a leader in whatever pursuit they choose. Furthermore, GME is receptive and frequently seeks resident feedback for self improvement.

How do the didactics, sims activities, and lectures get scheduled in terms of any potential overlapping conflicts; how much of the schedule are these integrated into the residency?

Didactics are scheduled every Wednesday from 12-5 pm. Each month we focus on a specific specialty. During our didactic time we often will have one or two hours blocked, sometimes a whole academic half day dedicated to sim lab activates, whether that’s practicing deliveries, dealing with a difficult patient, procedures, intubations, or central lines. We are given plenty of opportunities for practice. We can also go to the sim lab on our own for practice if needed.

Is the program family friendly? IMG friendly? 

Absolutely. Whenever we have large gatherings, it feels like everyone is connected together, whether they are a resident or not. We have several residents who either had children before residency or they are having children during residency. The program also is IMG friendly and many outstanding residents have come from international backgrounds.

What sort of housing opportunities do residents have in the area?

Gainesville and the surrounding areas continue to grow at a rapid pace. It feels like a year passes and there’s a completed apartment complex and another new building complex being started.

What sort of formal mentoring between attending and residents are there? 

We are assigned a mentor at the beginning of the year, however as the year progresses you may develop relationships with certain attendings who look to as a mentor and that is definitely welcomed!

What are the processes for fellowship opportunities either within NGMC or pursuing them in general?

NGMC is growing at a rapid pace with plans for launching multiple fellowships. While I might not know the exact details of what is in the pipeline, there are many opportunities to equip and prepare for fellowship applications both within and outside the institution. NGMC is also developing chief resident years to provide further opportunities for professional and personal growth. This program encourages and supports every individual on the path they choose; and if the resident steps up and engages with the process, there are a lot of great resources at the resident’s disposal.

What sort of structures (formal vs informal) are there to help mentor residents to improve their teaching abilities?

During CoRE, which is designed as education for all PGY-1s you begin a lecture entitled “Resident as a Teacher” where you learn what it’s like to be a mentor, teacher and leader. Not only that but you will have students who rotate with you throughout the year and will also have opportunities to teach your fellow residents, whether that’s informal or through a more formal case presentation in didactics.

What are favorite activities or things to do in Gainesville or in the surrounding areas for leisure or fun?

Gainesville is at the right distance between urban and rural; city and nature. A common nickname is the “Queen City of the Mountains,” which is apt due to our location being near the beginning of the Appalachian Trail. There are many gorgeous waterfalls, hikes, and trails. Atlanta is no more than an hour away for the Beltline, sports teams, or museums, aquarium, or zoo. I’m a big “Live to Eat” person, and there’s a lot of options in terms of dining out or finding fresh produce to make food at home. Especially after the COVID vaccinations, we have been finding more time for sports amongst the residents. And don’t forget about the awesome marathons, triathlons, and other ways to stay active in a place where the weather is awesome!

What sort of training do we get for learning how to code for office visits or notes and can you talk more about EPIC as an EMR?

We get formal coding lectures during our outpatient morning lectures typically either Thursday or Fridays. The EPIC team is also trying to find ways to make coding more understandable and intuitive, but our foundation comes from our attendings guiding us to better understand the coding nuances. EPIC has a lot of options and can be certainly overwhelming at times, but we have a dedicated EPIC support team as well as practical applications learning opportunities during pre-orientation as well as senior residents and attendings who help guide through EPIC. There is also a 24/7 information technology team to help with any questions about EPIC.

Can you speak more about the SIMs/skills/labs and workshops to improve procedure skills or learning experiences?

The SIMs/skills/labs are a blessing to practice and build some familiarity in safe space and scenarios to feel better prepared during the real events. From a personal perspective, the ACLS and CODE BLUE simulation really did benefit a situation where, as an intern, I had to manage a CODE BLUE until the support team arrived. We do get trained as well on simulations so we could also prepare for procedures in the ICU, floor, or the ED.

During your years so far, which rotation has been your most favorite rotation? 

Honestly, all of the rotations have been a blast. Especially as an intern, every rotation continued to build my foundations as a clinician. The attendings are focused on improving each resident on an individual basis, and each month builds upon the last. I think the transition between intern year and moving forward as a second year is the best rotation because when you take a look back you can appreciate all the growth that happened within one year and look forward to another year at the next level.

Can you explain what opportunities there are for community engagement, volunteerism? 

There are many ways to get involved with the community. Good News Clinic is an area designed for the underserved communities. There are schools and colleges around the area with students who want to learn more about the medicine process as they consider this as a future career. There are certainly more avenues to get involved as we serve a diverse community that has many needs.