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Audition rotations: Successful residents share 6+ tips

Residents who recently matched into their No. 1 program offer guidance on nailing your audition rotations.


Audition rotations are a crucial part of medical school. In May 2022, I wrote an article with insights on how residency applicants can match into their No. 1 ranked residency program. In preparation for that article, I interviewed 38 residents who successfully matched into their No. 1 ranked residency program.

That article was a 10,000-foot view of the insights expressed by these successful applicants and residents.

This article is a deeper dive into the insights shared by these 38 interviewees with regards to visiting/audition rotations.

As various specialties view audition rotations differently, students should conduct additional research on how visiting rotations should be approached and leveraged for their desired specialty. Students can do this research by connecting with student advisors and previous applicants who successfully matched into the specialty in question.

My previous article contained insights from the 38 interviewees who matched into their No. 1 ranked residency program on two questions that pertain to visiting rotations:

  1. Did you do an audition rotation at the program that you ranked No. 1?
  2. If you did an audition at the program that you ranked No. 1, how did you feel it went?

Top tips for audition rotations

All 38 interviewees were also asked the open-ended question, “What advice do you have on visiting rotations?” Below, I have codified and quantified all 38 interviews with the specific phrases mentioned by the interviewees. If a phrase, concept or idea was mentioned by an interviewee, that phrase, concept or idea was given a tally:

Many other items were mentioned, but only items that were mentioned more than once were included in the data.

Work hard

It’s no surprise that so many interviewees said this. Phrases mentioned by interviewees regarding “working hard” were to go the extra mile, volunteer for additional responsibilities, be reliable, do quality work, don’t cut corners, be diligent and stay late if you need to.

Matt McMaster, DO, a 2022 graduate from Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Colorado who matched into internal medicine at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, New York, said, “At this point [the point of the visiting rotation] in your medical career, you aren’t going to be able to drastically increase your knowledge in a matter of days. Make up for it with things you can control, like your effort.”

Be teachable/take feedback

Oftentimes, the pressure of a visiting rotation can warp students’ perception of a visiting rotation. Students sometimes forget that they are still students and these rotations are learning experiences. It’s especially noteworthy that further down on the graphic, the sentiment of “you don’t have to know everything” was mentioned eight times. Maybree Rittenhouse, DO, who attended Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine and matched into emergency medicine at Oklahoma State University, said concisely, “If you already know everything, then what is the point of residency?”

As these visiting rotations are learning experiences, students need to show that they can learn and be taught. According to interviewees, residency programs are looking for students who can take feedback with a positive attitude and then apply the feedback. It is crucial that students can show the completed cycle of not knowing something, receiving feedback, applying the feedback and showing improvement. After all, that is essentially the pattern of residency.

Another important point on this particular item is to ask for/seek out feedback when appropriate. Looking for learning opportunities shows a residency program that students are taking responsibility for their own education and have initiative.

A word of caution: this is not an excuse for incompetence. Students embarking on visiting rotations should take special care to fine-tune their competence as much as possible. However, as Dr. Rittenhouse noted, knowing everything is not expected at this point in a student’s education.

Be engaged/interested/enthusiastic

This specific item is fairly straightforward. Interviewees mentioned phrases like asking appropriate questions, being attentive, being organized and involved, being present, NOT being on your phone and portraying the appropriate body language to insinuate your engagement, interest and enthusiasm.

Be the best version of yourself

Interviewees often mentioned the phrase, “just be yourself.” By this, they meant to be natural, personable, comfortable (while maintaining professionalism), genuine and authentic. However, “being the best version of yourself” is a more helpful phrase.

Remember, students are still in a professional environment. The individuals who surround the student are contemplating whether they would enjoy working with the student throughout the grueling hours of residency. Being the best version of themselves ensures the students are seen in the most favorable light possible by a residency program.

Connect with residents and faculty/Find out if you like it there

An audition rotation should not only be viewed as a weighing and measuring of the student by the residency program, but also a weighing and measuring of the program by the student. Students should take this rare and intimate opportunity to investigate if they would enjoy the working environment of the visiting rotation. Students should be constantly evaluating and re-evaluating their experience with this perspective in mind.

It was not uncommon for interviewees to mention that their audition experiences drastically changed how they ranked programs in both a positive and negative way. Regina DiFiore from NOVA Southeastern who matched into Dermatology at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in New York said that visiting rotations should be an opportunity where students should, “find things that you are willing to bend on, and find things that you do not want to bend on” throughout your visiting rotations.

Being helpful

If students are attentive and engaged, they will inevitably pick up on areas, tasks or duties where they might be able to help or add value. Students should take advantage of these opportunities as often as they can. These opportunities should not be strictly limited to the work expected of them during the visiting rotation.

Students should look for opportunities to help nurses, to ease the workload of residents, to help patients, to provide a useful hand during a procedure or to take notes on important details during rounds. Being thoughtful in this way will bode well for students interested in nailing their visiting rotation.

A final note

It is worth noting that further down the graphic, several conflicting phrases are mentioned. Phrases such as “visiting rotations are extremely important”, “visiting rotations can hurt or help applicants” and “visiting rotations are NOT extremely important.” This shows that there are certainly conflicting views on the importance and value of audition rotations among successful applicants.

Some interviewees expressed thoughts, strategies or tactics related to what types of programs students should or should not apply to for their visiting rotations. Such intricacies are specific to specialties, the competitiveness of a student and the competitiveness of a program.

Students should investigate these details with the help of professionals available at medical schools and with the insights of individuals who have successfully matched into the student’s desired specialty. This article is not intended to replace this imperative mentorship.

Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of The DO or the AOA.

Related reading:

How to Match into your No. 1 program: Insights from 38 applicants who did it

What happens when medical students don’t match

One comment

  1. Martin Levine DO 115th AOA Pres.

    While I concur with all the advice as stated, fundamentally differences that OMS can bring are insurmountable by comparison. Think Osteopathically and apply OPP & OMT on all patients…yes, the type of OMT may be contraindicated, but pedal pump, rib raising and suboccipital release will make patients feel better, get the better faster with less meds and enhance the OMS’s standing in with the medical staff. DO some good, practice up to your level of education and training!

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