The process of applying for residency is complicated and often stressful. For a medical student who has spent the past few years immersed in books and lectures, the outside world can seem a bit intimidating. So, this article will attempt to offer some advice on how med students can prepare themselves for a residency application and interview process.
Much of the following discussion was inspired by the ‘Med School Minutes’ latest episode, ‘Residency Prep.’ In this episode, two Saint James School of Medicine USMLE Counselors have walked us through the steps they have taken to increase the chances of their students getting into the highly competitive residency program. Let’s see what they recommend.
How Med Students Can Prepare For Residency Programs?
You must study hard to obtain the required exam scores that make you competitive for residency programs. However, aspiring doctors seldom compromise on their studies. So studying books, although mandatory, wouldn’t give you an edge in a competition with hundreds of participants.
Under such circumstances, what can place you ahead in the competition are medical-related activities that go beyond typical study books.
Attend Workshops and Counseling Sessions
A significant portion of the residency preparation process has to do with writing applications, personal statements, and collecting letters of recommendation. Even with the best exam scores, you might fall behind in the competition for a residency spot if you unsure how to complete these tasks correctly.
So, SJSM provides workshops and counseling sessions for their students to provide information on these matters. If you are a fourth or third-year medical student and your school hosts similar activities, make sure you attend those. Instead of getting random advice on the processes, you can get well-structured counseling from your own school.
These workshops and counseling sessions can provide you with guidelines on writing a personal statement or how to obtain a letter of recommendation. You will also get a schedule on when you should have these tasks completed. As a result, you won’t be scurrying around at the last moment.
Take Part In Webinars and Conferences
Webinars and conferences are effective ways to reach seniors in the medical hierarchy. For example, administrative personnel or a program director of a residency course might not have the time to talk to medical students or answer questions during their work hours. When you meet the same person on the webinar, they may be more open and welcoming.
Therefore, medical students should attend such webinars whenever they get the chance. SJSM holds webinars where they educate students about the application processes and writing of personal statements. Plus, they also arrange sessions with senior residents, program directors, and other essential personnel with whom students can interact during these sessions.
Another excellent activity that students should utilize during their routh year of the medical school is attending conferences. These conferences will get you exposure to your future recruiters. Plus, it will also help you understand if your chosen field of specialty is suitable for you.
Build Relations With The Alumni
If your school has an alumni association, make sure you join it. This will give you access to your school’s alumni, which are more inclined to assist you and give you advice than anyone from the outside the school. ]Many of them have undergone the same hardships and faced the same challenges you are going to face soon. So they can always provide valuable insights and advice on the residency process.
Also, consider that some of these alumni might even be on the interview board for your residency program. So, if they are already familiar with your face, it can work to your advantage.
How To Ace Residency Interviews?
Your chances of getting into a program mostly depend on how well the interview goes. Here, you need to understand something important about residency interviews, and that is that these interviews are not really designed to judge your academic knowledge. The exam scores are already telling the board everything they need to know academically.
Instead, residency interviews are much more about judging you as a person. The program director, chief resident, and administrative personnel are trying to understand if you are the kind of person they can work 70/80 hours per week with. Are you the type of person they can call on at 2am to check on a patient?
Work On Your Intro
You need to attract the attention of the program directors and other seniors in the first minute of your interview. So, you should work on coming up with a great intro. If you do it well, the rest of the interview should go well. Meanwhile, your interview might be brief and unsuccessful if you can’t get the board interested in you in the first few minutes.
Another thing you need to learn is to ask questions. After the intro, the board members often tell you to ask them questions. This is important for them because, as a resident, you will be carrying out such back-and-forth conversations with these people.
Don’t Be Camera Shy
After the pandemic, the world has learned about the convenience of remote interviews. And this is even more applicable to medical interviews because doctors are at the highest risk of exposure to the virus. As a medical student, you need to prepare yourself for remote online interviews where you have to face the camera.
For many students, talking to a camera can be inconvenient and, therefore, they might not be able to convey their potential to the board. to address this, work on your body language and learn how to talk to the camera.
Since they spend so many years in libraries and lecture halls, some medical students tend to lose some of their social and communication abilities. Thus, learning how to communicate properly is one of the most crucial skills to develop before the residency interviews.
Suppose a faculty member or PD asks you what your particular skills are. You might answer that you are a team player. while that is fine, you should also explain what makes you a team player. This is where many students will fumble. But with excellent communication skills, you can easily find a suitable answer. For instance, the group study sessions in your medical school can be a great example of you being a team player.
You need to work on your social and communication skills. Plus, you need to learn how to build relationships with the doctors who are higher up in the hierarchy.
And lastly, practice makes perfect. Practice mock interviews as much as possible before appearing in front of the board.