A Day in the Life of a PGY-3 Resident


My Background

Hi, I’m Katie, a third-year resident in adult psychiatry at Yale. I grew up in Pittsburgh, PA, amongst three rivers and rabid football fans (Go Steelers!). For undergrad, I attended Oberlin College, a small liberal arts college near Cleveland, OH and went directly to medical school in Rochester, NY at University of Rochester. As you can tell I’ve always lived in the Mid-Atlantic/North East regions of the U.S., so coming to Connecticut for residency wasn’t too much of a change for me. I’m pretty fond of snowy winters and you definitely get a little of that here! My favorite pastimes include hiking and hanging out at the beach, dinner parties and happy hours, and binge watching TV shows on Netflix with my friends, all of which I’m thrilled to be able to do here at Yale.

Why I Chose Yale

I had a good gut feeling about this place from the start of my pre-interview dinner. It was easy to talk with the residents about work and their interests (I remember the resident to my left vacillated between describing our stellar didactic schedule and his extensive beer brewing hobby). It felt like a good fit. On top of that, I was impressed by the variety of training sites (Connecticut Mental Health Center, Yale-New Haven Psychiatric Hospital, the West Haven VA and Yale University Mental Health and Counseling), as well as the strong balance of emphasis given clinical experiences and didactics. This isn’t a place where you function as just another worker bee. There’s a huge weight placed on resident education, both in terms of our didactics and on-site teaching points. Applying to residency, I didn’t know if I would want to do a fellowship or what sort of career I would want, but I left my interview feeling confident I’d be exposed to diverse experiences and mentorship at Yale to help me figure that out.

My Schedule

Third year of residency is spent predominantly in the outpatient setting, with the addition of some overnight call in the psychiatric emergency room. For your outpatient experience you have the choice of working at one of three sites: the West Haven VA (sees veterans with a wide variety of ages, races, and diagnoses), Yale University Mental Health and Counseling (treats Yale undergraduates, graduate students and student spouses), or the Connecticut Mental Health Center (serving the uninsured and chronically mentally ill of New Haven). I have an interest in expanding my knowledge of psychodynamic psychotherapy and working with young adults, so I have opted to work at Yale University Mental Health and Counseling. I have my own office and see patients with a diverse array of backgrounds and concerns for individual psychotherapy, medication management and group therapy.

Life as a Third Year Resident

My day usually starts between 8 and 9am and ends around 5pm. The majority of the day is spent working with patients, meeting with supervisors (we receive dedicated supervision time in psychodynamic therapy, CBT, group therapy and psychopharmacology), and attending weekly didactics with other PGY3s. We also have 20% of our time over the course of the year reserved for electives (research, clinical, or academic).

For about 3 weeks of nights (Sunday through Thursday) and 6 blocks of weekends (broken into day or night shifts), spread over the course of the year, I rotate in psychiatric emergency room. This night float system was actually developed by the residents as an alternative to intermittent 24 hour calls and has been very successful so far! The experience is enriched by the presence of 24 hour attending supervision in the psychiatric emergency room, an addition advocated for by the Psychiatry Residents’ Association (PRA).

What I love about third year is how it is all about developing your independence as a psychiatrist in a safe and supervised way – from scheduling my own patients and determining for how long and how frequently I will see them, to being the point person managing the psychiatric emergency room at night (with attendings available to back me up), I have the sense that I’m really getting a feel for what it will be like in the future in my own practice.

Where I Live

I live in downtown New Haven in an apartment building that is a 15 to 20 minute walk to all clinical sites Yale-New Haven Hospital and Psychiatric Hospital, Connecticut Mental Health Center and Yale Health, except the VA. It takes about 15 minutes driving or by Yale Shuttle to get to the West Haven VA. I love life downtown – I frequently run into other residents and faculty on my way home from work and end up sitting down for coffee or going out to dinner. I love being able to walk to the grocery store, work and bars and restaurants. With a normal amount of city-life caution, it’s a safe and easy place to live and get around!

My Favorite New Haven Restaurants and Cultural Activities

The highlights of New Haven for me are the food (tons of great restaurants, really good pizza, amazing local coffee shops), the Criterion Movie Theater (with classic movies and mimosas on the weekend mornings), hiking in East Rock park, spending a day at Hammonassett Beach, and the easy train ride to get to NYC (I probably go once or twice a month to visit friends, get dinner or see a show or concert). While New Haven’s not a huge city, I’m never bored here, and having a big academic center like Yale at the heart of the town means there’s always new theater, music and art experiences to stumble upon.

Final Thoughts

I remember applying to residency and having this sense of dread that I was signing my life away for the next four years – I worried it would be a time of constant sleep deprivation and work, and I would lose sight of all of my relationships with friends and family, and enjoyable activities. On the contrary, being a psychiatry resident at Yale has been some of the best 3 years yet. This is a place where you’re immediately made to feel at home, there is always something new and exciting to experience or learn about, and where you actually do have the time to do so and enjoy it! I honestly think that’s in large part due to the incredibly supportive and invested faculty members and our program director, Dr. Rohrbaugh. I think everyone has to find the program that is the best fit for them. For me that meant going with my gut and coming to Yale, and I have no regrets!