The best online resources for residents

By Kirstin Bass, MD, PhD
Published April 19, 2022

Key Takeaways

  • Apps are available to help you with many aspects of residency, from calculating drug doses to reading journal club articles.

  • Using apps has been shown to support better clinical decision-making and improve patient outcomes.

  • Having a way to double-check yourself during residency can also provide peace of mind as you begin your patient care journey.

Looking for information during your residency beyond the confines of your library? There are now numerous apps and resources available online to help you.

From medical calculators to journal article summaries, there seems to be an app for everything.

Here are some of the most used—and recommended—apps to help in your residency years. Some are free; some are paid subscriptions. You won’t need all of them, but hopefully some will be useful.

General resources

You’re probably familiar with these resources, which tend to be ubiquitously used by students, residents, and physicians alike.

Medscape: A comprehensive resource for internal medicine, this app allows you to easily research medical conditions, procedures, and drugs, and provides evidence-based reviews of clinical presentations and treatments for more than 4,000 conditions and diseases.

Epocrates: This app allows you to review evidence-based clinical practice guidelines, check for potential drug interactions, and receive medical news alerts. You can also add extra features such as the ability to look up ICD-10 codes for an additional yearly fee.

UpToDate: Another well-known app, UpToDate features clinical content on more than 10,000 topics, as well as containing drug information and medical calculators.

Harriet Lane: This handbook for pediatrics features up-to-date guidelines, a pediatric drug formulary, dose calculators, and details on hundreds of pediatric conditions in a concise outline format. It’s not free, but certainly something to consider if you’re working with children during residency.

When time is tight

Running around the ward, you don’t always have the time to look through apps like Medscape or UpToDate—here are a few recommended sources that complement these apps by providing more succinct information:

Lanthier—Practical Guide to Internal Medicine: This app version of the internal medicine pocketbook provides bullet-point summaries of conditions and treatments, suited for the fast pace often needed for the clinic or ward.

UCSF hospitalist handbook: A concise but comprehensive guide to in-patient diagnosis and management of common adult medicine issues. This is a paid app, but users enjoy its to-the-point functionality.

MD on Call: This app was designed to help residents survive call nights, especially in the beginning of residency—but it can continue to be useful throughout your training. One resident noted, “So handy, especially for lytes replacement and things like quick tx for hypertension. Probably one of my most used.”

Great diagnosis resource

VisualDx: Providing medical images across all skin types, this app helps you tackle diagnosis by allowing you to see variations of how disease can present. Useful when diagnosing conditions that present with rashes or other skin conditions, VisualDx represents a variety of skin types for each condition.

Medical calculators

From the Cockroft-Gault equation to determine creatinine clearance to the qSOFA score for sepsis, clinical medicine requires many calculations. Whether you’ve forgotten the actual equation or just want to check your math, having access to a medical calculator is essential during residency. Here are a few most commonly used by residents and clinicians:

MDCalc: This site provides easy-to-use medical calculators so you don’t have to memorize a bunch of criteria, scores, and equations. It also contains guideline summaries and clinical practice pearls that can be extremely helpful when you’re starting out.

MedCalX: This iOS calculator provides easy access to the formulas, scores, scales, and classifications you’ll need while treating patients.

Drug references

Micromedex: This tool lets you search across a bunch of drug information databases, providing info on administration, adverse effects, contraindications, pharmacology, and more.

Lexicomp: Evidence-based drug decision support presented in a succinct format, this app is used by clinicians and pharmacists.

PediSTAT: A good reference for anyone caring for pediatric patients in an emergency or critical care environment, this app provides information on interventions, age- and weight-specific calculations, medication doses, and pediatric medical management algorithms.

Other useful apps and sites

JournalClub: This app, available for both iPhone and Android, provides summaries of landmark trials and top articles by physicians. One PGY4 noted, “[JournalClub] made a big difference on rounds with the more academic-minded attendings.”

CDC Vaccine Schedules: This free tool provides the most current version of CDC-recommended immunization schedules, along with contraindications and precautions associated with various vaccines.

Sanford Guide: The print guide is a leading clinical reference for treatment of infectious diseases, and the app combines all information found in the print guide while adding interactive calculators, algorithms, and tables. This is a paid subscription, but depending on the patients you’re seeing throughout your residency, you may find it invaluable.

This is by no means a comprehensive guide to the medical apps and resources available, and different specialties require other resources. But whatever your clinical path, it’s likely you’ll want some handy apps at your fingertips.

These are good places to start.

What this means to you

There is a vast amount of information available on the web for residents. Some of the best online resources include apps offering general medical information (in both extensive and succinct formats), diagnosis resources, medical calculators, drug references, journal summaries, vaccine schedules, and infectious disease treatment reference material.

Read Next: Adopting a growth mindset during residency
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