A New Approach to the Residency Application?
In the increasingly tech-savvy world of medical education, it comes as no surprise that major changes are occurring at every level of the training process. While this trend has resulted in the development of new and innovative learning platforms, one area of medical education that has remained relatively unaffected over the years is perhaps one of the most important: the residency application process.
With few exceptions, individuals seeking graduate medical training in the U.S. must participate in the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS). ERAS is a basic technology platform that collects a standardized set of information about applicants and distributes it en masse to residency programs. The result is a huge pool of data, made even larger by a trend of increasing application numbers per applicant, through which program directors must comb when deciding to extend interview invitations. Numerical evaluation metrics such as USMLE and/or COMLEX board scores and class ranking have emerged as critical tools residency programs can use to rapidly narrow their focus to applicants who meet a certain demographic.
To explore a new method to infuse an additional variable into the ERAS equation, the AAMC announced a new Standardized Video Interview (SVI) research study in May. All applicants to Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME)-accredited Emergency Medicine (EM) residency programs for the 2017 Match were invited to participate in this study.
The opt-in participant enrollment period for the AAMC's SVI study spanned June 27-Sept. 30, and the results analysis phase was projected to begin Oct. 1 and conclude in December 2017. The goal is to evaluate the validity, fairness, and usefulness of the SVI in the residency application process, specifically as it relates to the generation of a new, more “holistic” score to be added into the ERAS application.
The study was designed such that applicants each received 6 random questions to assess 2 ACGME competencies (professionalism and interpersonal/communication skills). Participants got 30 seconds to read the question, and then 3 minutes to answer each question in a video recording. A brief survey followed the session. The videos were then independently scored, with the intention of later correlating this score to application data and residency performance metrics. Students who chose to participate received a $50 Amazon gift code after completing the interview and feedback process.
As outlined by the AAMC in the informed consent document, the study was strictly voluntary and blinded to avoid any impact on applications for the 2017 Match. Neither participants nor program directors (nor anyone affiliated with an EM residency program) will receive any videos, scores, or other information at any point during the process.
The overall goal of incorporating some assessment of interpersonal skill into the residency application process is nothing new. For example, membership in the Gold Humanism Honor Society (an organization that recognizes individuals who provide humanistic care) is now a standalone component of the ERAS application. While the overall utility of this status varies depending on the individual evaluating the applicant, the ultimate goal of this modification to the ERAS application was to provide a relative marker of desirable competencies in a potential resident.
The primary difference between the SVI study and previous attempts at incorporating holistic components into the ERAS application is that the SVI study also aims to provide a numerical score that can be used as an objective data point to compare applicants.
While it is difficult to assign a grade to a personal statement, there may be some incentive for residency programs to utilize the SVI score if the AAMC is able to standardize the scoring process and demonstrate a correlation with desirable resident performance metrics.
As the interview season approaches, EM-bound applicants can rest assured that no dramatic changes to ERAS will be made for this cycle. However, this initiative should put medical students on notice that the residency application process may be modified in the near future.
How exactly will the residency application process change and adapt to address traditional difficulties in applicant assessment identified by educators? With the integration of new technology, the answer may trend toward an increased personalization of the application; whether this involves a video interview, however, remains to be seen. For now, the best advice for students is to continue working hard, find mentors who can help them navigate the current application process, and stay up to date with any new changes as they are announced.
- AAMC Video Interview Policy Statement. AAMC Standardized Video Interview Research Study
- AAMC Video Interview FAQs. AAMC Standardized Video Interview FAQs
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