Physiatry Forward: Virtual Interview Tips
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Navigating the Virtual Interview Season

Authors: The AAP’s Residency & Fellowship Program Directors (RFPD) Council

The PM&R Program Directors held a virtual meeting on June 3, 2020 to discuss the upcoming changes to interview season due to COVID-19. Co-hosted by Monica Rho, MD and Miguel Escalon, MD, 61 Program Directors discussed the impact of virtual interviews and limitations on away rotations for medical students. Here are the biggest takeaways for students preparing for this novel virtual-based interview season.

We hope the suggestions listed below help students and programs prepare for interview season. The Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE) release date was postponed until October 21, 2020 to allow students and schools additional time to prepare materials. Match Day will not be postponed, however, so expect that interview season will proceed along a timeline similar to previous years, albeit using virtual interviews.

Virtual Interviews

Virtual interviews will change the experience for students and programs, raising student concerns about the potential for matching. The Program Directors advise students to choose programs based on best fit and interests. Overall, the programs will likely not change or may slightly increase the number of interviews offers. Generally, interviews will occur throughout the months of November, December and January, but there is wide variation between programs. As a group, we are discussing best practices to make the virtual interview experience meaningful for both applicants and programs. The goal of recruitment season remains to find the best match between student and program.

Application Process

The PM&R Program Directors recognize that the number of applications per program may increase. Assessing ‘fit’ may be more challenging for both the program and medical student due to virtual interviews. The group suggested that medical students include an extra paragraph at the end of their personal statements to highlight a personal connection or interest in the particular program. Almost half of surveyed Program Directors said they would consider an extra paragraph when viewing applications, but the group would like to stress this is optional. Programs will be updating their program websites, ERAS profiles and other online platforms with program specific requirements and suggestions for interview season. Any additional fees should be discouraged by programs so as not to add to the financial burden for applicants.

Away Rotations

Many institutions will not offer away rotations this year due to concerns for the spread of COVID-19. The AAP’s Residency & Fellowship Program Directors (RFPD) Council recently issued a statement agreeing with the Coalition for Physician Accountability recommendation that away rotations be limited this year, except when required for graduation or not available at the student’s home institution. You can find more information on AAMC’s website. This will disproportionately affect schools that do not have a PM&R department. When possible, institutions should strive to offer PM&R rotations with a regional approach. This way, students from local schools without a PM&R department can rotate at institutions within their metro area, state or region without extensive travel. Virtual rotations may also allow students exposure to the field and to individual programs. The group stressed that virtual rotations should not come at an increased cost to students, nor should the programs imply that participation may enhance applicants’ chances in the match.