This Friday, March 19th, marks one year from the last Match Day – and just over one year from the day COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. Residency program directors, along with soon-to-be residents across the nation, knew then that the pandemic could upend the 2020-21 residency selection cycle.
The process of matching residency applicants to programs is a lengthy one. From the time they start school, every medical student thinks about Match Day. The process is intense, and this past year only upped the stress and excitement. The recent disruption of training and the residency application cycle has been unlike any other.
Until now, the 2019 Match was the most competitive year to date, when a record 38,376 applicants submitted program choices. This year, as of March 1, 2021, there were more than 47,000 registrants, per the NRMP.
For physician recruiters, it’s crucial to understand how the students entering residency programs now will be trained for positions you’ll recruit for down the line. Here are a few things recruiters should keep in mind regarding this year’s matching process.
In-person interviews are a staple of matching residency programs to graduating students, and the whole process this year had to be changed.
The Coalition for Physician Accountability created a set of recommendations for changes to the final year of medical school and residency selection that endorsed virtual interviews and campus tours. Creativity came into play at most programs.
“Interviews are a two-way street,” said Kim Lomis, MD, the AMA’s vice president for undergraduate medical education innovations and a member of the Coalition. “An interview offers programs the opportunity to get to know the candidate. For the prospective resident, it’s a chance to get to see the facility, the culture, and prospective housing. We’re anticipating programs [will] create online opportunities to get to know residents and faculty at their sites.”
Many students truly benefited from virtual interviews this year because it saved time and travel costs.
Some programs also used the shift to virtual as an opportunity to improve their process, including New York University Langone Health. They conducted virtual interviews, but they also restructured their previous interview structure. The result? “An opportunity we could not have taken advantage of if we didn’t have the virtual realm,” says Patrick M. Cocks, MD, director of the internal medicine residency.
Letters of recommendation served an extra-critical role in the residency application process this year.
Typically, med students complete audition rotations (or away rotations) that let them showcase their ability in a residency program. It also helps them confirm their medical specialty of choice and get a feel for a program’s culture. They then request letters of recommendation – one of the currencies for residency applications.
However, this year, many rotations were eliminated because of COVID-19, especially for specialties that perform elective procedures. Adapting to the circumstances, many programs altered requirements, and faculty members united together to make a universal format for letters of recommendation.
Every year, there’s a selection of medical students who don’t match into a residency program. What do they do?
The NRMP offers a service called the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP) to help eligible unmatched applicants apply for positions that weren’t filled during the Main Residency Match. You can learn more here.
The pandemic will continue to shape our medical education and healthcare system. Medical residents preparing to enter practice in the next few years are likely to feel it most because experienced doctors who lost jobs due to COVID-19 are now willing to accept less pay. The AMA recently published 4 questions that doctors should keep in mind for their job search, which helps graduating residents and physician recruiters like yourself!
For medical students applying for residency programs, Doximity provides a Residency Navigator to help them choose the right training program.
If you know of medical students looking into different residency programs, Doximity’s Residency Navigator is the tool for them! Physicians licensed in the U.S. have contributed nominations, ratings, and reviews. It then combines their feedback with objective data on residency programs across 28 specialties and more. The tool is so popular among graduating medical students that 90% of them create a Doximity account!
Want to know what doctors care about when it comes to your job opportunities? Our Client Success team at Doximity shared some of the most common things physicians ask about here.