“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. While Newton was referring to physics, this same principle applies to the advantages and disadvantages of choosing to explore other medical facilities.”
As third-year medical students, we often assume that choosing a specialty is the toughest decision that we must make before the academic calendar comes to an end. Our special cohort chose to pursue an exciting career in anesthesiology. Now that we have overcome that obstacle, we face many more barriers that are almost equally challenging. We have been asked to design the perfect fourth-year schedule and determine the utility of visiting student clerkships. In hopes of making this decision a little less anxiety-provoking, we gathered advice from recent applicants, current anesthesiologists and members of admission committees.
Choosing whether or not to partake in a visiting student clerkship in anesthesiology has been a controversial subject. Unlike orthopedic surgery and emergency medicine, there is no clear answer for the benefit of away rotations in this field. It all comes down to personal preference, but the advantages and disadvantages are universal.
Meeting with residents, attending physicians and program directors gives visiting medical students the opportunity to separate themselves from the large stack of applicants they must decipher. Committee members may favor an applicant whose face is familiar when compared to other applicants with similar scores and evaluations. This can be extremely beneficial for individuals with family ties or spousal careers tied to specific locations. In addition to desiring a specific location, it is also beneficial to visit programs of your interest when you prefer to move out of the region of your medical school for residency. We often focus on residency programs’ opinions of applicants during the interview process. It is important to remember that we are also interviewing the program. Visiting an institution provides great insight on the type of environment you may work in as a resident and the people you will learn from for four years. This knowledge can make a huge impact when creating a rank list for the Match. Medical students without an anesthesiology residency program at their home institutions must partake in an away rotation in order to receive letters of recommendation. Letters from academic institutions are better received than letters from community physicians that are not affiliated with a medical school.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. While Newton was referring to physics, this same principle applies to the advantages and disadvantages of choosing to explore other medical facilities. The most commonly perceived disadvantage is the time required for visiting students to familiarize themselves with a new hospital system. This adjustment often hinders a student’s performance during the first of four short weeks, and first impressions are critical. Another major disadvantage in away rotations is the financial obligation. After paying Visiting Student Application Service (or VSAS) fees, applicants must pay administrative fees to the visiting institution, which can amount to hundreds of dollars. In addition to those costs, students must also cover the cost of housing at their visiting location and homes for that month.
In summary, visiting student clerkships are not necessary to match well in anesthesiology. Away rotations are recommended primarily for students who lack anesthesiology residency programs at their home institutions or students who would like to attend a residency program outside of the region of their medical school.
For more information, visit: https://www.aamc.org/students/medstudents/vsas/