Top 5 Things To Consider When Applying For Residency or Fellowship

Top 5 Things To Consider When Applying For Residency or Fellowship

Dec 04, 2019 Published by Kathrin O'Neill

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With the many developing medical facilities around the world, there’s also an increase of available residency and fellowship programs which leads to more options to aspiring residents and fellows. Despite this, some doctors still have difficulty in choosing which programs to apply to. Here’s a list on the top five things that should be considered:

1. Medical Specialty

Think long and hard about the program you’re applying:

  • Does it offer a great experience in the field you want to specialize in?
  • Does it offer a program that will help you achieve your specific career goal?
  • Are the doctors in the program are your ideal mentors in the field you choose to specialize in?
  • What is the feedback about the working environment within the program?

Career-wise, these are the questions you should be asking when pondering whether you should apply or not apply to a specific program. Paperwork is already a burden, presentation and interview can be a worry - so think hard as to whether the program you’re interested in fits into your interests. Some residency and fellowship programs that are situated in many hospitals may have top-notch facilities but don’t have the specific experience you’re looking for. 60% of the top five fields filled with residents from NRMP’s 2019 report were under the surgical field.

Most surgical fields are considered competitive and if you’re thinking of going to a competitive field, go to a residency and fellowship program with established mentors and have a diverse case or procedures that you can learn from. It is difficult to be accepted to a residency program due to the competition of residency applicants each year but it is more difficult to quit and re-apply to another program once you realized that you’re not fit on your current program. Conduct research on the program’s cases and the current residents and their growth - this will give you an insight as to whether you’re a perfect fit for the program.

2. Living Expenses

If your desired residency program is not in your country or where you’re currently residing, another significant factor that you need to consider is the living expenses. Although medical residents are paid, you still have to consider other factors such as rent, food, and price of daily necessities. If the residency program you’re applying to is located in an urbanized city, then the living expense is likely to be more costly. Consider whether you will be able to find a place near the medical facility of the residency program; the program will be difficult itself so you don’t want to add an additional burden of commuting almost every day. This also means that you have to consider how much you will be paid as a medical resident - will you be able to budget it to what you need to get by, pay off loans and have some savings for your future.

3. Mentorship and Experience

Just like being a student and intern, mentorship is very important during residency and fellowship. Finding suitable mentors is difficult as you will need someone who understands your learning curve, approach to making a diagnosis when presented with a case and of course someone who sees potential in you. Although finding a mentor can be difficult when you are just scouting for programs - you can research the current fellows and residents and their work - read their journals, their cases, and their published papers. Having sufficient knowledge about your probable mentors will give you more confidence in deciding which program to apply to. Additionally, consider reading or gathering feedback about the program’s medical facility - is it friendly to the employees? Is it diverse? Does it offer a healthy environment towards the people who are within the facility? The environment you’ll be working on will affect your experience as a resident and as a fellow so you better make sure to choose a program that can offer you a healthy environment - that is ideally, one that can provide you growth as a doctor and as a person.

4. Location and Community Support

Most people who are already in the age of application for residency and fellowship are also gearing towards building a family. So if you’re going with your family at the place where your program is located - make sure that it fits for your family:

  • If you have kids - does the location have good schools around the district?
  • If you’re living alone, do you have friends or family nearby that can provide you emotional support in the case that you have some problems?
  • Is the location accessible to your family or loved ones?
  • Does it have a community wherein you can join any activities whenever you want to de-stress from your work?
  • Lastly, is the community where your program is located a good place to start a family?

Finishing your residency and fellowship is a good accomplishment, but finishing it with a healthy mindset is even more important. It is important to prioritize your health and your family first when it comes to big and long-term decisions in your career that can affect your personal and family life in a great deal.

5. Financial Sustainability

Any doctor or any employee who is on the verge of taking a job would consider whether the pay he will be receiving will help him achieve his other goals - getting married, building a family, buying a house or car, helping out the family. Some might say that you cannot have it all but at least try out for the closest program that helps you in achieving your goals not only for your career but for your personal life as well. To assess whether the program you’re eyeing can sustain your needs:

  • Ask about it during your interview with the program director - this is a very practical question to ask and there’s no need to be shy about it.
  • Gather feedback in the medical community - although not discussed in detail, there are people in your field who’ve had some information as to what programs can offer other than advancing in your medical field.