Medical Physics Residency FAQs - Diagnostic Imaging Physics Edition

4 minute read


Match season is likely one of the most stressful times of a medical physicist’s career. Understandably, prospective residents may have a lot of questions about what it’s like to be a resident. During our interview process, my co-resident and I hosted a meet and greet with prospective residency candidates. It was great to meet everyone and it also gave me a chance to reflect on my career trajectory, short as it may be.

The Questions

What is the best thing about residency?

The people I work with are amazing. They all put in so much effort to make the residency program a great experience. Resident education can be time-consuming and difficult and I’m grateful to work with physicists who go the extra mile to support me when they already have so many things on their plates.

What is the worst thing about residency?

I don’t have anything negative to say about the program structure itself :) The thing I struggle most with is long equipment testing sessions late at night (think MR or CT). It’s hard to be efficient at testing equipment when you’re still new to it, so I expected it to take 4+ hours to test an MR unit. I’m simply not a night owl. I usually wake up at 6:30 AM and my brain processing speed lowers drastically after 7 PM. If I had a choice, I’d prefer the early morning shifts.

What do you do for fun?

I feel like this question is code for, “Do you have time to do anything outside of work?” Thankfully, the answer to that question is yes. From what I’ve seen, imaging physicists generally have good work-life balance (compared to therapy physicists, sorry y’all). I’m typically in the office 9-5 M-F. I usually go to banjo lessons and a jam session once a week in the evenings. There’s a local meadery that hosts board game nights that I try to go to because I’m a big fan of board games. I’m free most weekends to do whatever I want (usually hiking, thrifting, walking somewhere around town). Occasionally I’ll have to go into the hospital to do equipment testing, but not that often. Every so often I’ll also have to catch up on studying on the weekend, especially if I have an oral exam or a presentation coming up. Other than that, I feel like I have a solid amount of free time to pursue my hobbies.

What does an average day look like for you?

This depends on how much clinical workload I have that day. Some days a physicist will have a “blitz” where they bring the resident to test a large volume of equipment in a single day. For example, my co-resident and I accompanied two other physicists to test 16 c-arms in a single day. These are rare events, but they take up the whole day or two if you include working on the reports.

I’ll say that my most average day is that I come into the office, read emails, make my to-do list, work on tasks like reading, writing reports, working on code, maybe attend a lecture, go to meetings. On days I have some kind of equipment testing, that usually takes up 2-4 hours and then I spend the rest of the day doing the other stuff I previously listed. Usually I’m doing some kind of equipment testing 1-3 days a week, but last week I tested equipment 4 days and the week before I tested no days.

How often do you have to do off-site testing?

Not terribly often, like once a month or less. Some of our off-site locations are about an hour away from the main hospital while some of the other “off-site” locations are actually just down the street from the hospital. The rest of them are clinics/urgent cares/ambulatory surgical centers etc. within 30 minutes of my office.