Up, Up, and Away (Rotations)

Rugaya Abaza, MS-IV, EMRA MSC Southeast 2 Regional Representative

In a short time we will be starting the brand new year (2019 will be the best yet, promise). For third-year medical students, a new year means the opening of Visiting Student Learning Opportunities (VSLO) and the process of applying for and scheduling away rotations. While you still have some time before you have to submit your VSLO application, it is a good time to start doing your research. Below is a quick rundown of how this process will go and some pointers on choosing your rotations.

How it works

In January, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), which hosts AMCAS and ERAS applications programs will open up VSLO, which includes the Visiting Student Application Service (VSAS). Your school will send you an “invitation” to sign up, you’ll login and fill out a profile, pick programs you are interested in and submit applications. Each program will have its own requirements that have to be met to be considered for an away rotation which include:

  • CV
  • Immunization Records
  • Proof of PPD
  • USMLE Step I score (unofficial is fine, you don’t need the official USMLE transcript for this)
  • A professional headshot
  • HIPAA training certificate
  • Proof of BLS training (or less commonly, ACLS training)
  • Proof of malpractice insurance
  • A short bio (this is a part of your overall profile, think of this as a written “tell me about yourself” answer)
  • Personal statement detailing why you want to rotate at this particular program
  • Proof of BLS training

Your application then goes to your school to review and released to the programs of your choice for consideration.

So what do I need to do?

Start researching programs early. Get an idea of where you would like to rotate for a month. Is there a program you’re really interested in and would love to impress? Have you ever wondered if you would like to live in a big city? A small town? This is your chance to try it out. Compile a list of programs you would be interested in and start looking into their visiting student application process. This is important because while most programs use VSLO exclusively, other programs want you to use VSLO in conjunction with another application that is specific to their program, and others won’t use VSLO at all. In addition, different programs will begin reviewing applications at different times and will have different deadlines ranging from early spring to 30 days before the rotation starts. Programs will also have their requirements for a visiting student on their website and it’s good to get an idea of what you need to have as early as possible.

Also, start compiling your application materials. Make sure your certifications are up to date and that your CV is nice and updated to include all the fabulous things you’ve done in medical school. Make sure you’ve gotten all of your immunizations and that you have proof of all of these things. The earlier you start, the less likely you are to be stressed out trying to get in contact with someone at your school for a piece of paper right before the deadline.

Look into visiting student scholarships and grants that are offered by programs that can help alleviate some of the cost of rotating. Many programs will have scholarships for students of an underrepresented minority background, as well as for those with particular goals related to service, etc.

How many away rotations do I need?

The answer is, it depends. You need two SLOEs for many residency programs to be considered, which makes the standard answer “as many as you need to get 2 SLOEs.” If your school has its own EM rotation, you need at least one away rotation so you can get that second SLOE. Other factors in how many rotations you should do include money (two rents is expensive y’all), how many different kinds of hospitals you want to be exposed to, and other factors such as if you are an IMG or DO applicant.

These are also considered “audition rotations.” So if you plan on applying to a competitive program, or if you want to prove to a program that you have tried out a certain region and you would move out there for residency, you might consider doing away rotations at these institutions or in these regions. Some programs will interview you for residency during your away rotation or they may even waive your interview altogether for the application cycle. You can check this out on EMRA Match for Clerkships.

Where should I go?

Consider the following:

  1. Is there a region/city you want to try out before applying to programs there?
  2. Where do you have family you want to be close to in residency (and also can you live with them during the rotation because $$)?
  3. Is there a program you want to impress?
  4. Is there a program you are interested in that you would like to test drive?
  5. Is your home program a county or community program? You would do well to try the other out to see how you like it because they are very different settings.

Of course there are many strategies and factors to consider when choosing your away rotations and applying through VSLO. In addition to the tips above, your greatest resources will be your school’s advisor, your personal EM mentors, students from the years above you that matched into EM or are applying to EM, and the different programs’ websites and clerkship coordinators (they are generally very nice, just send an email).

Good luck!


VSLOE for students:


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