Wednesday, November 8, 2017

This Is The Dumbest Way To Conduct Residency Interviews.

I'm not sure why I never noticed before, but I finally realized that my fourth year medical students were paying hardly any attention in the operating room. Instead they were glancing at their smartphones incessantly every few minutes. I thought maybe these millenials just can't stop checking their Instagrams even at work. But then one of them told me up front that he will be on his phone to check his emails for any residency interviews that might be offered and will be distracted the entire time.

Why? Don't they just send out a letter informing you that you were accepted for an interview? He just kind of rolled his eyes and looked sympathetically at me like I was his senile grandfather. He explained that these days, residency programs will send out mass email to everybody they find acceptable for interviews. However there are not nearly enough spots in the program for everybody they invite. Therefore only the first few people who answer the emails will get the interview. He had several friends who missed out on interviews at coveted programs because they were busy and didn't reply to their emails within 30 minutes of receiving them.

I was astounded by this revelation. Just to confirm that the first student wasn't pulling my leg, I asked another student in a separate room and who didn't know the first one, if this was true. She said yes. During these program interview months they are constantly checking their emails. But how do you know when to look? She said it depends on where the residency is located. If they are on the East Coast, the acceptance email may arrive on the West Coast at 5:00 AM Pacific time. Conversely for those on the East, the West Coast programs may send out their emails when it's 8:00 or 9:00 PM Eastern time. Essentially they are locked to their smartphones from the time they get up until nearly bedtime.

I don't know when or how this started and I'm not sure why it's done this way, but I have to say the way medical residencies send out invitations for residency interviews is one of the stupidest ways I can think of to find future physicians. When did finding our best and brightest doctors turn into a radio call in contest where the first ten callers get tickets to the Bruno Mars concert?

It just doesn't seem fair that after years of hard exhausting work, these kids may miss their number one choice for a residency because they were actually paying attention at the hospital. Some of our students have travelled thousands of miles and spent thousands of dollars to come for their externships. It's really not right they waste all those resources checking their email accounts when they should be trying to impress us to get into a residency. 

I'm really surprised the ACGME allows this conduct to occur. They should be looking after the medical students' best interests. The students gain nothing during the important autumn months of their fourth years if they're worried they may miss the most pivotal interview of their lives because they put the phone down to go to the bathroom. How can the residency programs care so little about the crucial fourth year medical education? They are just being too lazy to conduct a proper vetting of the applicants who they really think will do well at their programs. Maybe they should go back to snail mail like back in my youth. Our medical students are getting no favors with this "Survivor" method of choosing their careers. The future of medicine deserves better than this.


  1. In my experience it is not that there aren't enough spots for interviews but that the students schedule can't fit the allotted times. Programs interview 1 to 2 days a week. When I was a med student some of my rotations didn't allow any time off for interviews. So I'd have to secure weekend spots if possible. Others may allow 4 days off for interviews for the month which isnt much time of interviews are far away. Therefore I wasn't able to fit in some interviews into my and everyone's schedule

  2. Agreed, it is a lazy way of inviting candidates. However the NRMP hasn't helped the situation with electronic applications. All it takes is an extra click and a few extra dollars to send your application everywhere. This has inundated the residency directors/committees with far more applications than they have faced in the past.

    I still believe the residencies worth training at are the ones that will take their time going through applications and handing out an appropriate number of interviews with their e-mails. These programs still exist and getting an interview there isn't just about board scores and grades. However, it is probably hard to find 10 of them in a geographically desirable area that you would live in - 10 being the "magic number" for a successful match.