An evaluation of the availability, accessibility, and quality of online content of vascular surgery training program websites for residency and fellowship applicants

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Abstract

Background:

Vascular surgery residency and fellowship applicants commonly seek information about programs from the Internet. Lack of an effective web presence curtails the ability of programs to attract applicants, and in turn applicants may be unable to ascertain which programs are the best fit for their career aspirations. This study was designed to evaluate the presence, accessibility, comprehensiveness, and quality of vascular surgery training websites (VSTW).

Methods:

A list of accredited vascular surgery training programs (integrated residencies and fellowships) was obtained from four databases for vascular surgery education: the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, Electronic Residency Application Service, Fellowship and Residency Electronic Interactive Database, and Society for Vascular Surgery. Programs participating in the 2016 National Resident Matching Program were eligible for study inclusion. Accessibility of VSTW was determined by surveying the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, Electronic Residency Application Service, and Fellowship and Residency Electronic Interactive Database for the total number of programs listed and for the presence or absence of website links. VSTW were analyzed for the availability of recruitment and education content items. The quality of VSTW was determined as a composite of four dimensions: content, design, organization, and user friendliness. Percent agreements and kappa statistics were calculated for inter-rater reliability.

Results:

Eighty-nine of the 94 fellowship (95%) and 45 of the 48 integrated residencies (94%) programs participating in the 2016 Match had a VSTW. For program recruitment, evaluators found an average of 12 of 32 content items (35.0%) for fellowship programs and an average of 12 of 32 (37%) for integrated residencies. Only 47.1% of fellowship programs (53% integrated residencies) specified the number of positions available for the 2016 Match, 20% (13% integrated residencies) indicated alumni career placement, 34% (38% integrated residencies) supplied interview dates, and merely 17% (18% integrated residencies) detailed the selection process. For program education, fellowship websites provided an average of 5.1 of 15 content items (34.0%), and integrated residency websites provided 5 of 14 items (34%). Of the fellowship programs, 66% (84.4% integrated residencies) provided a rotation schedule, 65% (56% integrated residencies) detailed operative experiences, 38% (38% integrated residencies) posted conference schedules, and just 16% (28.9% integrated residencies) included simulation training.

Conclusions:

The web presence of vascular surgery training programs lacks sufficient accessibility, content, organization, design, and user friendliness to allow applicants to access information that informs them sufficiently. There are opportunities to more effectively use VSTW for the benefit of training programs and prospective applicants.

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