Lessons from Medical Residency

stethoscopeI attended a Residency Summit last week and left with some great ideas, an appreciation of public transportation, and a Cubs victory in a play-in game.

One of the highlights of the conference was hearing from Dr. Greg Ozark. Dr. Ozark has led medical residents for 15 years at Loyola Medical Center and he came to share lessons from the medical world that we could apply to our Theological Residencies, and specifically to our Ministry Residency Program.

Perhaps the most valuable observation I gathered was this. A medical doctor will go through 4 years of undergrad, then 4 years of medical school. The first two years of medical school are spent in intensive book learning building their medical knowledge.

After two years of intensive study we have, in Dr. Ozark’s words, “a highly qualified paper weight”. Thus begins the final two years of med school – medical knowledge combined with clinicals. Clinical skills – actually working with patients – are radically different from just having the head knowledge of how to practice medicine. Clinical work is defined as pertaining to a clinic or to the bedside; pertaining to or founded on actual observation and treatment of patients, as distinguished from theoretical or experimental” (emphasis mine). Clinical work can’t be tested with a written test, instead Dr. Ozark outlined their intensive process of peer evaluation of 6 core competencies measured with 1-5 grade milestones.

One of the major motivations behind the Ministry Residency Program here at Denver Seminary was an understanding that “Theological Education” needed to be combined with actual hands on “Ministry” work. Just like a med student needs a comprehensive baseline of knowledge, you need a solid theological foundation to practice occupation ministry. But a theological education by itself is insufficient to do ministry. You have to get into the field and begin to ‘get your hands dirty’.
We have a hope that your ministry ‘clinicals’ are the actual practicing of ministry with careful observation and feedback from qualified mentors.

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