Saturday, May 24, 2014

Got to Get Away (for a Rotation)

Now that you have picked EM as your area of interest, you need to arrange your year. The first step is your home EM clerkship. Ideally you want to rotate as early as possible.  Use this month to hone your skills, be open to feedback, and show how you can learn and grow as a clinician. This spring you need to find your away rotation. Your away is your opportunity to see a new spot, experience a program your interested in, and compare and contrast what is important for your learning. 

As with most of the residency process, you get out what you put in. First you need to do some legwork. SAEM’s clerkship directory is the best spot to look at regions, narrow your choices, and investigate programs. The map allows you to click on a state and view all the clerkships, with information about the individual rotations. 

Next you need to go on VSAS. This is the visiting students application service. You can use this to apply for the majority of clerkships. The site is cumbersome, so here our my top three tips:
  1. Know the programs you are interested in first - you can review their individual applicant requirements. Rotations will have their own block dates, forms, and application timing. You will want to make multiple applications, in order to ensure you have an away rotation. Three to four should be plenty. VSAS has tutorials that will walk you through the process step by step.
  2. "Patience Daniel son" - the process is slow but this is how to get the rotation you want. Many programs accept applications on a rolling basis and will notify you if you have a slot 6-8 weeks in advance. You can use the tracking option to keep an eye on your application process, and even change your preferences for rotations at an institution. 
  3. Ensure you fill in all the forms -  there are a lot of forms but you need to complete them all. Incomplete applications will either fall to the bottom of the stack, or never even reach the clerkship director. If you fail to meet the requirements you will not rotate. The tutorial for forms is the most important to review: complete and upload them properly.
Some students are met with the dilemma of being accepted into one clerkship, while they are waiting for another to give them an answer. My advice is to take the bird in the hand. While it is tempting to wait it out, what is most important is that you have an away rotation. If you have done your research up front, each of your applications is to a spot you would like to rotate at. Be excited you have the rotation and get yourself ready to shine. If you only have time for one away rotation, let the other programs know you have accepted another spot and look forward to meeting them during interviews.