The 2020 residency interview cycle will be one for the books. With no away rotations, modified course work complicating LOR opportunities and virtual interviews, this year’s applicants face many unique barriers to the residency application process. However, if there is one field prepared to meet these challenges, it’s Emergency Medicine.
So—with no away rotations and virtual interviews—how can we as students evaluate a program that we’ll be dedicating three to four years of our life to? Emergency medicine organizations like the Society of Academic Emergency Medicine (SAEM) have attempted to answer this question through virtual residency fairs where programs and applicants have had the opportunity to communicate and learn about one another. While it’s no substitute for in-person communication, it has certainly been an effective platform to learn more about a program’s mission and approach to residency curriculum. Next month, Emergency Medicine Residents’ Association (EMRA) is taking it a step further with its residency fair. EMRA’s sessions will provide the opportunity to meet one-on-one with program leadership and current residents to further establish relationships prior to the ERAS deadline.
Social media is also an effective way to connect with programs. Through interactions on Twitter, Instagram live and Facebook live events, programs have been able to display their personalities in fun and creative ways. Finally, an active way to further assess programs is to use the large alumni network that comes with attending the largest medical school in the country and one that is so well established in Emergency Medicine. For primary programs of interest, it’s advantageous to reach out to interns/residents who attended IU to get an “inside look” into the program since we will not be doing so in person.
As far as virtual interviews go, there are still a lot of unanswered questions.
How should we prepare?
How will the interview days be structured?
How can we gauge the “vibe” of these programs through a Zoom meeting?
We’re not sure anyone has all the answers to these questions. However, as applicants, we need to focus on what we can control. Just like any interview, it’s imperative that we’re able to craft a narrative about ourselves and answer standard questions like, “Why EM?” or “Why this program?” Along with our personal narrative, we can control our degree of preparation. Plan for a professional spot to conduct interviews, whether that be a home office, school, family’s home, etc. Practice Zoom sessions in this spot and be prepared to troubleshoot any predictable technical issues. With the added complexity of conveying this information via Zoom, practice is now more important than ever. The EMSIG is planning a virtual interview seminar to cover the basic components of an interview. There will also be an opportunity to practice interviewing one another or possible mock interviews.
At the end of the day, we are all in this together.