Assessing Residency Programs
Many thanks to Vanderbilt University for providing these helpful tips.
As soon as possible after the interview, record your impressions and update your checklist.
When you get home, send a thank you note to recognize their hospitality and to reaffirm your interest in the program.
In looking over your notes, you may discover several vital questions you did not ask during the interview. It is perfectly acceptable to call back for more information, particularly if one of your interviewers, frequently a resident, has invited you to contact him or her for more information.
Take plenty of time to rank the programs. You may want to put your notes aside for awhile to give yourself some time to air your thoughts. Talk through your reasoning with advisors, friends, and family but remember that the final decision is yours.
The following is a summary of some factors to consider in examining residency programs. This is by no means a comprehensive list nor is it in order of importance.
Important determinants of a training program are the philosophy and interests of the Chairperson of the Department. The Chairperson's ideas regarding education will permeate the entire staff. Find out how stable the Chairperson is in the position: an imminent departure could mean changes in the program during the transition. How much contact does the Chairperson have with house staff? How does the staff relate to him or her? Is the Chairperson willingly helpful in evolving your career plans after residency?
Most good training programs have a well organized teaching approach. The rotations are varied with some experience in sub-specialties. The first year trainees in these programs assume a great deal of responsibility for the care of the patient. You should look at the diversity of problems encountered and the degree of responsibility accorded the house staff. How many procedures are residents performing in surgical specialties? Most programs make arrangements for their trainees to attend teaching conferences.
The hospital reflects the quality of its administration. Administrative concern for the needs of patients is expressed in the facilities available: clinics, emergency room, and waiting rooms. Progressive approaches to the care of drug addicts, alcoholics, and the mentally ill are other indicators of social involvement. The physical plant, food, quarters, salary, and other facilities are important but not necessarily of primary significance.
In approaching program selection, carefully consider what you want in your postgraduate training. For example, how important is it to you to have an academic setting, research oriented teaching, private practice oriented teaching, independent responsibility, a nice physical environment, a light workload. Hospitals will meet such criteria in varying degrees. Consider each hospital in terms of what it can do to meet your needs and, of course, what you can do to help meet its needs. Remember: Whether you devise a point system or go by "gut feeling" to create your rank list, it should be based solely on the desirability of the program and not on your expectation that you will match at that hospital. There is no benefit in listing a program on any basis other than desirability!