Finding the right program

Matching into residency—what program directors and students are looking for

People on both sides of the Match process open up about what’s important to them.

After scoring a residency interview, how a candidate fits in with the rest of the program staff is often a deciding factor in whether a match is made, says Hope Ring, MD, an emergency medicine program director at St. Mary Mercy Hospital in Livonia, Michigan.

“It’s not all about the interview,” Dr. Ring says. “We’re looking for that overall picture—how you interact with the coordinator and with other residents when you take a tour with them.”

Interactions with faculty and house staff, interpersonal skills and feedback from current residents comprise the top characteristics program directors weigh when evaluating candidates, according to the 2018 NRMP Program Director’s Survey.

Finding a residency program that has what you’re looking for in terms of clinical and educational experience and is in a location that works for you will help you succeed in residency, says Michael Allswede, DO, an emergency medicine program director at Sunrise GME in Las Vegas.

“If you have residents who don’t match on one of these characteristics, they can have a harder time getting through residency,” Dr. Allswede says.

3 things program directors are looking for in students:

1. An understanding of personal wellness

Michael Pallaci, DO, looks for medical knowledge, a drive for greatness and an understanding of the importance of personal wellness.

“If you’re going to be great, you also have to be well,” says Dr. Pallaci, an emergency medicine program director at Adena Health System in Chillicothe, Ohio. Being great at work can be a critical component of wellness, he notes, because having confidence in your role can help defray the stresses of the job.

2. Insight

Dr. Allswede wants applicants with emotional intelligence.

“Candidates who show insight in their successes and failures have the maturity to do well when the chips are down and it’s the middle of the night,” he says.

3. Cohesion

Dr. Ring is looking for students who are teachable and can work well on a team.

“We also want someone who will speak up if there’s an issue,” Dr. Ring says. “No one wants someone who’s unhappy in a program for three or four years.”

3 things students are looking for in residency programs

1. Family fit

Scott Wilder, OMS IV, at Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine-Auburn, is looking for a residency program in a location that suits his family.

“It’s about me and my program in the context of who I am as a whole person, and my family is a part of that,” Wilder says.

2. Opportunity

Kara Smith, OMS III, at Campbell University-Jerry M. Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine, is looking for a residency program that supports her goals and dreams. She wants a program that provides opportunities to teach interns as she becomes a senior resident.

“I’m looking for opportunities to hone my clinical skills, procedural skills and people skills, and I also would like the chance to work closely with other residents,” Smith says.

3. Culture

Through her rotations, Rachael Huwyler Wiig, OMS IV, at West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, has realized the importance of a good work culture.

“I want to make sure the environment in general is positive, that the nurses like their jobs and are happy where they are, and other staff on the team are happy,” Huwyler Wiig says.

Further reading:

What to ask during residency interviews

How I matched into a general surgery residency

Get ready for residency: 2019 Match timeline

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