Considering that this option is not much of a route that many take during their entire medical career, this whole endeavor's information is not necessarily as transparent to the public as many hope that it could be. Apart from the stigma regarding the negativity that most professionals will receive upon choosing to switch residency programs or specialties due to various reasons, including financial, personal, health, or emotional problems, the impracticality of this option when examined from a logical perspective is one that likewise discourages many professionals from following the program or specialty that they are passionate about. Although the latter is somehow true in the strictest sense, despite the reality being much more forgiving, the former is an issue that has long been resolved due to its unprofessional essence. The medical community accepts those who would like to follow what they would like to practice in the field, and there is no sense to worry about falling behind as electives and helpful co-workers are present to guide you along the way. Even though being alone throughout this entire endeavor is a risk that many would have to take, it does not necessarily mean that you would have to be lonely in exchange for following what your heart wants.
The entire process, although we have established that its stigma has no concrete basis nowadays, is still a lengthy procedure that could last for months or even years. Although many institutions now offer express passes for those who are incredibly deserving, the application process remains very competitive due to the lack of available slots and openings in all residency programs throughout the country. It is efficient to utilize external references that would be of great help in narrowing down your options while simultaneously providing you with the necessary options to go through in the first place. Many websites, including FindAResident, AMA’s FREIDA Database, and ResidentSwap, are available online to provide you with updated postings about openings in various institutions., and you could utilize such methods to speed up your transition to another program. This is not saying that personal correspondents are less than significant in speeding up your application process, but in cases where your connections are necessarily your best bet for a quick transfer, then perhaps looking for potential openings through external means is the best option for you.
Interested to learn more about the websites, their postings, and what makes an external reference reliable enough to use? We have the information for you in the following sections.
Before you even start to search for possible openings in various references or even through your connections throughout the medical field, you might want to consider what type of transfer you are going for beforehand to know whether you need an external reference to find available openings. Of course, you could always go with multiple options to somehow expand your coverage and speed up the process by a few months, but knowing how you will approach your transition is just as important as knowing how to approach the search for various openings.
Among the personal options that you might have collected already from your colleagues and live search, you could process your transfer through the institutions in three different ways: through an internal transfer where you transfer to another program within the same university, a cross-university transfer where you could be directly recommended by your current program director to be considered for an opening, or through the Match process, albeit this process is somehow different from your first Match considering that you no longer have to take your Step 1 and Step 2 CK examinations to be considered.
Transferring within the same institution is more commonly known as an internal transfer – a transfer between different programs due to burnout, toxic work environment, change in specialties, or other reasons you may have against the program but not the university or institution per se. The reason behind the transfer is always on a case-to-case basis for sure, but the process somehow remains the same in many universities. The entire procedure itself is smooth, and it probably is the easiest one to do among the three, considering that the transaction between the two programs is almost instantaneous. If you are lucky enough, you are looking at a timeline of several months only, but it could always reach up to a year in rare cases where the openings are scarce year-round.
For an internal transfer, you would have to apply and contact the Post Graduate Medical Education (PGME) Office after staying for six months in your current residency program until six months before the end of your current training to ensure that you have contributed enough to the institution while still considering the practicality of your transition in cases where you might be in too deep already with your current program. Of course, this situation could always vary, but you may always consult your program director to know the exact details of the transfer.
The application often starts during the first day of your PGY1 Year (January 1), but the protocol may vary once again. Contact your PGME office to initiate the process, and always ensure that you are constantly updated about the timeline of events for the duration of your transition.
Oh, and in this case, you might not need an external reference for postings as the institution would be processing your transition to other openings in their various program. However, if you would like to have the option, you could always check out openings in different universities.
A cross-university is the option in which your current institution will recommend you to other universities if openings are not available for an internal transfer (direct transfer), or you would have to look for openings yourself in other universities through your means.
For the direct transfer process, this is often dependent on whether there is an “applicant list” within your university for those not considered for an internal transfer due to the lack of available slots. In this case, the university will recommend applicants to other institutions, but the downside of this option is that you will be highly reliant on the pace of your current institution itself – making it impractical for those who would like to undergo the transition process right away.
On the one hand, you could always look for available openings in other areas, especially if you are confident enough to look for one on your own. Apart from working at your own pace, the advantage of this personal search is that you would no longer be restricted by their pace, the availability of funding, and their meeting schedules wherein they would have to deliberate whether they can accept you and whether they would like to accept you in the first place. Of course, you would always run the risk of not finding a single viable program for you when you choose the former, but it would ultimately depend on how you weigh the pros and cons of your two options.
Although it could take years before you are successfully matched to another program, the Match process is like an amalgamation of the two options in a cross-university transfer. It takes time in the sense that they would have to process your application along with thousands of other applicants who might be applying with the exact specifications, but it also provides you with more options by considering both in-university and cross-university transitions that you may take on.
In this case, perhaps the only thing that you might have to do is to look for Matching institutions that could effectively help you speed up your Match process through their various connections and transfer protocol. Of course, you could always couple this multi-faceted option with an external reference for job postings, but if you could somehow see your current program through while looking for a potential opening in other universities, then perhaps it might be worth taking some time to wait for the Match process to bring out a possible spot for you.
To give you a little idea of what documents you should prepare before you start the application process itself, the following are the paperwork that you would have to process beforehand – considering that you might be needing them sometime soon during your transition.
However, please do note that although these are commonly required documents, the requirements of universities may vary depending on what they need to assess whether you are compatible with their program.
Contact your prospective program director and institution beforehand to obtain a complete list of the documents that you would have to acquire and submit. You may also consult your current program director to ask for help in processing these documents if you are comfortable divulging your transition early on.
When looking for postings about openings in various programs, the search could be somehow restricted by the lack of attention to professionals who opt to switch to another program – considering as well, of course, that some people might still see program transitions as somehow a “taboo” topic in the medical profession.
As such, many individuals have come to create dangerous websites that could intentionally collect your information for mischievous deeds by offering potential “openings” and subsequently asking you to fill out a form saying that they would have a position for you after a certain period. Given that the options for these professionals are incredibly scarce, you could see how many individuals could be victimized by such an agenda, and it is not bound to change anytime soon (and that is on top of poor quality websites that need subscriptions even if their openings are non-impressive, to say the least). You surely don’t want that, now do you?
With that in mind, when looking for potential external references apart from your program director and personal connections, the first thing that you should be checking is the credibility of the website as well as its process of allocating slots for applicants. Suppose you are having second thoughts about your assessment. In that case, you could always enter forums for medical professionals, subreddit conversations (not that reliable all the time), Student Doctor Network’s forums, and of course, you could always consult your previous colleagues for their advice.
The following websites are some of the relatively decent databases that we could collate based on their reliability, consistency of offerings, and quality of service overall.
Apart from its charming purple hue and intricate website design, Resident Swap is an excellent database that provides vacant positions for those professionals who are both applying through and outside of the Matching process. Resident Swap accordingly functions in four different ways to cater to as many professionals as possible and extend their help to whoever is looking for a vacant position, no matter what their status is.
First, Resident Swap is a database that collates and displays empty residency training spots for various PGY levels that professionals could examine and potentially apply to if they are willing to approach and reach out to the program directly – a feature that is excellent for those who would like to switch their programs through an off-Match method. Mainly, the positions they are posting are those that could cater to both individuals who are going through and are working around the Matching process, but they restrict this listing for non-Match positions once the Match week begins.
Second, Resident Swap contains a feature wherein a resident could list a potential opening in a particular training program if they are planning to leave their training or if they are planning to switch programs with someone else from another institution. Of course, this listing is kept confidential and anonymous to protect the identity of the resident while they are still thinking it through, but this is also a great way to secure a spot if it just so happens that you have the position or specialty that they would like to train under too.
Resident Swap likewise has a function that integrates its monitoring program with your email or cell phone to notify you whenever they come across an advertisement regarding a particular vacancy in another residency program from another institution. While this might not necessarily be the most reliable option out there from all its features, it is an excellent add-on nonetheless in increasing your search for possible openings throughout the country.
Lastly, Resident Swap also comes with a very considerate feature that allows couples to simultaneously search for openings that are near to allow them to work closer to each other instead of being assigned to two completely different cities. It is a little bit of fan service if you would ask professionals who believe in “not defecating where you work,” but if the circumstances require or allow them to do so, why not take advantage of the opportunity to be with the one that they want to be, even when they are undergoing training to become professionals.
FindAResident was developed by the Association of American Medical Colleges or AAMC, and it is a subscription-based forum and database that allows you to not only access listings of potential openings even in a non-Match season, but also post your updated curriculum vitae, your professional information, and even your photo to allow prospective program directors to recognize you even before you provide your documentary requirements to the institution.
The website has a $75 subscription fee from the get-go, but this fee is nothing compared to the website's opportunities for you and your career. In addition to that, if you are also considered as an active Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) user, you automatically get a $30 discount from the yearly subscription fee – a silver lining, I guess, especially if you were not able to snag a position during the Match season on ERAS or even through NRMP.
FindAResident has three main functionalities that allow it to function effectively in collating available openings that you could apply in for your new residency program. To start, FindAResident offers a standardized online resume document that you could simply follow to make your document more appealing and presentable in the best way possible to potential program directors. You have the option, of course, to post your curriculum vitae and photo to buff up your profile, but the standardized resume is always there to save you time from designing an updated resume to submit.
FindAResident likewise comes with a massive database of open positions from various institutions that you could browse and consider all year long – even during off-Match seasons. What makes FindAResident even more appealing is that it can display all vacancies and fellowship programs for most, if not all, specialties and subspecialties in the field, making it perfect for your residency program switch and even for your fellowship application in the following years.
Oh, and if we still were not able to raise this, FindAResident also comes with a private mailbox through the account that you could use to personally message program directors of certain programs that interest you and manage their responses more efficiently than when you simply browse through their messages in cluttered email inboxes. You could likewise receive notifications if you receive a confirmation. Perhaps that is one more point for the private mailbox over the minimally functional email application in your phone.
FREIDA is an initiative developed by the American Medical Institution to provide residents and medical professionals alike with residency training program vacancies and available fellowship programs from their collated 12,000 Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME)-accredited programs. With the inclusion of over 35 filters to narrow down your search, as well as the availability of various specialties that you could browse and examine to determine what specific field it is that you are more aligned with, the search for available postings has never been more streamlined to maximize user experience throughout the process. Top that all off with its world-class interactive and striking design that integrates various other features such as a Residency Plan Calculator, resources for Career Planning, and video galleries for a more visual understanding of specific topics and issues, and the AMA certainly hit the jackpot with its thoughtful planning and establishment of this reference for professionals – accomplished and developing alike.
The Student Doctor Network is not necessarily a website tailored to provide program vacancies for residents applying in an off-Match season, but rather it is a forum where professionals interact with each other for free – providing information about certain medical issues, fellowship availabilities, and of course, residency program openings in various institutions that you could check out.
Although this website is included in the list, it is not necessarily the most reliable and secure option that there is out there, but your program director could always verify its validity if it somehow correlates with the openings that they could find in their network and listings from their servers. If you are somehow second-guessing whether the opening is legitimate, you could always ask your program director to double-check for you to be able to contact the institution and inquire whether an opening has just become available. Once again, always double-check to make sure that you are not divulging critical information to strangers, especially if they are highly personal information that is not even necessary in the first place.