To the Editor: Three years after completing my psychiatric residency, I have finally, albeit reluctantly, registered to take the boards. “But everyone does it,” was the comment I most often heard from my graduating colleagues when I informed them of my plans to defer testing to some later unknown date. It is not so much that I felt becoming board-certified was a bad thing but I wondered why my co-residents, so curious and questioning about the mind and behavior in general were so quick to sign on to this process which to me seemed to be of unclear value.
That one’s ability as a psychiatrist could be measured by a multiple-choice test or via an interview with an unknown patient was problematic at best. That one might become “board-certified” without a substantial independent practice period, essentially having just finished residency; the entire endeavor seemed superfluous. Hadn’t I taken the annual PRITE exam? Hadn’t my supervisors had ample time to evaluate my clinical skills?
Truth be told, I have always had a bit of an oppositional streak. Perhaps I was just tired of jumping through the seemingly endless hoops of medical training: MCAT, USMLEs. And now after graduating from one of the top psychiatric residency training programs in the country I was going to be asked to do it once again? Why did I need an additional framed certificate on my wall when my colleagues were already sending me their difficult cases?
And then there was the matter of cost. Like most graduating residents, money was not in particular abundance, and while a better paying job loomed on the horizon it just did not seem right to ask someone just starting off to pay a few thousand dollars. I decided that the money I did have would be better spent on actually furthering my education as opposed to proving it so I enrolled in a psychoanalytic training program.
Over the past few years I have come to understand that my gripes regarding board certification are less likely to be seen as a justified questioning of an underexplored rite of passage than as evidence of either untamed oppositionality or flat out incompetence, neither of which I am keen to admit. Ultimately I have acquiesced, not because I have come to recognize the merit of board certification, nor has my questioning been “cured” by psychoanalysis, quite the contrary. I have just given in to the peer pressure; after all everybody is doing it.
At the time of submission, Dr. Neimark reported no competing interests.