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PGY 1: A Day in the Life with Alessandra Ferrera

Em Collins • 8/27/18

PGY 1: A Day in the Life with Alessandra Ferrera

By: Alessandra Ferrera, MD

Not long ago I was a fourth-year medical student just like you, proofreading my personal statement and declaring my unyielding love for psychiatry. I remember staying up late at night reviewing my ERAS application and making sure I didn’t accidentally apply to become a physiatrist. I know working on your residency application can be tough, but having to work on it means you made it! Congratulations! You’re like that mouse that fell into a bucket of cream; peddled so hard he churned that cream into butter and walked out. You’re on your way to meeting some great people on the interview trail, experiencing Match Day and starting your residency. As a newly minted doctor embarking on a four-year journey, I couldn’t imagine a better experience than being a PGY1 in the Psychiatry Residency Program at IU School of Medicine.

The first thing I noticed from the time of my interview, is the positive and uplifting culture that exists within the Department of Psychiatry, which stems from great leadership and supportive staff who are committed to excellence. In this department, resident feedback is taken seriously and it’s not uncommon to see changes based on our suggestions be brought to fruition.

During the first year, we rotate through various psychiatry services as well as two months of neurology, one month of emergency medicine and three months of internal medicine. During the psychiatry months, we rotate through different hospital systems located on our main campus. We are able to see patients at the VA, Riley Children’s Hospital, Ezkenazi and Methodist Hospitals. I just finished a month of neurology at the VA, and one month of adult inpatient psychiatry at IU Health Methodist Hospital. Now, I’m rotating at Eskenazi Hospital’s Mental Health Recovery Center, which serves as Marion County’s safety-net hospital serving the community’s underserved and often most gravely disabled patients. Eskenazi offers residents an amazing chance to gain experience in caring for individuals with different psychotic disorders.

I start my day at 8 am when I arrive on the unit to pre-round and pick up new patients. At this time, I’ll  greet and visit patients, as well as assess any clinical changes they may be experiencing. After that, I prepare plans for each patient and meet with the 3rd year medical students rotating through the unit to go over care plans for the patients they are following. At about 10:30, our team of physicians, medical students, a social worker, a nurse, and an occupational therapist review the patient census, offer updates from the previous 24 hours, and discuss treatment and discharge plans. The rest of the day typically consists of placing orders, completing interviews with newly admitted patients, obtaining collateral information, checking back in with patients, and writing notes. Even though there is a general structure of events, no day is like the other and there is never a dull moment!

Eskenazi also has a psychiatric emergency department called the Crisis Intervention Unit where all PGY-1 residents take call approximately every 1-2 weeks from 4:30pm-10pm (not bad when you consider that we have weekends off during all psychiatry rotations). The CIU offers walk-in appointments but you will often be consulting for the emergency department and will assess patients in either the ED or secure holding if they are under police custody. It is a great way to practice assessing patients in an acute setting and to learn how to determine if a patient needs to be admitted or if outpatient follow up is more appropriate. The CIU social workers are also incredible at their jobs and hilarious people in general, so it’s really an all-around great place to work!

One last thing and I’ll stop bragging. The IU Psychiatry Residency program really values resident education, which is why we have 4 hours of protected time every Friday from 11am to 3pm, regardless of whether we are on a psychiatry rotation or off service. Resident wellness is also important, so Fridays also include lunch and a bit of socializing. It’s a great time to catch up with co-residents, learn some stuff about psychiatry, and diversify your week!

Thank you for stopping by our website and learning about our program. I hope we’ve adequately painted a picture of how awesome it is and we wish you all the best this year!

Learn more about a residency in Psychiatry at IU School of Medicine.


Em Collins

Communications Coordinator

Having joined IU School of Medicine in 2016, Em uses a poetry and theatre background to help bridge the academic world with the creative. A graduate of University of Evansville, he works with faculty and academic staff to formulate unique, marketing ideas that engage the public with innovative research at IU School of Medicine. From writing stories on groundbreaking equipment to orchestrating digital marketing strategies, Em collaborates with experts across the school to help departments thrive in their marketing and communication ambitions.Contact Em at