Factors That Influence Medical Student Selection of an Emergency Medicine Residency Program: Implications for Training Programs

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Abstract

Objectives:

An understanding of student decision-making when selecting an emergency medicine (EM) training program is essential for program directors as they enter interview season. To build upon preexisting knowledge, a survey was created to identify and prioritize the factors influencing candidate decision-making of U.S. medical graduates.

Methods:

This was a cross-sectional, multi-institutional study that anonymously surveyed U.S. allopathic applicants to EM training programs. It took place in the 3-week period between the 2011 National Residency Matching Program (NRMP) rank list submission deadline and the announcement of match results.

Results:

Of 1,525 invitations to participate, 870 candidates (57%) completed the survey. Overall, 96% of respondents stated that both geographic location and individual program characteristics were important to decision-making, with approximately equal numbers favoring location when compared to those who favored program characteristics. The most important factors in this regard were preference for a particular geographic location (74.9%, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 72% to 78%) and to be close to spouse, significant other, or family (59.7%, 95% CI = 56% to 63%). Factors pertaining to geographic location tend to be out of the control of the program leadership. The most important program factors include the interview experience (48.9%, 95% CI = 46% to 52%), personal experience with the residents (48.5%, 95% CI = 45% to 52%), and academic reputation (44.9%, 95% CI = 42% to 48%). Unlike location, individual program factors are often either directly or somewhat under the control of the program leadership. Several other factors were ranked as the most important factor a disproportionate number of times, including a rotation in that emergency department (ED), orientation (academic vs. community), and duration of training (3-year vs. 4-year programs). For a subset of applicants, these factors had particular importance in overall decision-making.

Conclusions:

The vast majority of applicants to EM residency programs employed a balance of geographic location factors with individual program factors in selecting a residency program. Specific program characteristics represent the greatest opportunity to maximize the success of the immediate interview experience/season, while others provide potential for strategic planning over time. A working knowledge of these results empowers program directors to make informed decisions while providing an appreciation for the limitations in attracting applicants.

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