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Resident Physician Forum
November 18, 1998

AMA-RPS Offers Resources for New Housestaff Organizations

JAMA. 1998;280(19):1714H. doi:10.1001/jama.280.19.1714

Regular readers of Resident Forum may recall that we have presented several columns about the formation of housestaff organizations to help residents collectively negotiate with their teaching institutions. This continues to be a top priority of the American Medical Association-Resident Physicians Section (AMA-RPS). We recently completed our first manual on the topic and are preparing an educational program for the AMA Interim Meeting in December.

Manual on Housestaff Organizations

The manual, entitled Independent Housestaff Organizations: A Win/Win Opportunity, provides basic information on the reasons for organizing housestaff and how this can benefit both the residents and the institution. It explains that a housestaff organization can help residents work with the institution to improve standards of patient care and enhance the educational environment of residency programs. A housestaff organization can serve as resident advocate, providing them with an opportunity for leadership training, and offering them member benefits in the form of products and services. An institution benefits when the housestaff organization creates a more collaborative work environment and provides a forum for 2-way communications with residents; institutions are given a new way to receive suggestions for improving efficiency and to inform residents of policy changes and conveying information.

The manual also offers guidelines for these organizations. In general, housestaff organizations should not dispute the educational content in a residency program; this responsibility belongs to the program director and attending physicians. In addition, housestaff organizations should not take any job actions, such as strikes, which would jeopardize patient care.

Finally, the manual presents a preliminary guide on forming a housestaff organization. It discusses steering committees, executive committees, administrative support, funding, meetings, and communications with members. Next year, we will publish a manual that will present more detailed information on forming a housestaff organization. That manual will be written for the executive committee of a new or emerging housestaff organization as it seeks formal recognition and acceptance from teaching institutions. It will include a sample constitution and bylaws, dues invoices, articles of recognition, and other documents.

Members of the AMA can obtain a copy of Independent Housestaff Organizations: A Win/Win Opportunity by calling (312) 464-4751 or by e-mail at colleen_eakin@ama-assn.org.

Educational Program

At the AMA 1998 Interim Meeting, the Resident Physicians Section will host an educational session on forming housestaff organizations. Attendees will hear presentations by staff and residents from an established housestaff organization at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and from a new housestaff organization at Tulane University, New Orleans, La. The speakers will outline the steps that residents need to take to form a housestaff organization and will inform attendees how best to approach their institutions with the idea of a housestaff organization.

This educational session will be held Friday, December 4, in Honolulu, Hawaii. To attend this session, you must register for the meeting. To register or find out more about the meeting, visit our Web site at http://www.ama-assn.org/mem-data/special/rps/
amarps/amarps.htm or call the AMA Department of Resident Physician Services at (312) 464-4751.

If you and your fellow residents are interested in forming a housestaff organization, I urge you to read our manual or attend our educational session. The AMA can further assist you by providing consulting services on forming a housestaff organization.