3 Best Strategies to Research Residency Programs
As a new fourth year med student, 'tis the season to research which programs I want to send my application to this fall.
Trying to pick a residency program is like trying to buy a suit (or dress) online. As great as it looks on-screen, you'll never know if it is a great fit until you try it on yourself. The good news is that we all end up becoming doctors. The bad news is that it doesn't matter where you go, its going to be very hard at first. Below are 3 ways I'm using to research my prospective programs as I plan to apply to anesthesiology residency +/- prelim programs.
BONUS: Because you made it this far, I've included my most essential resource in residency comparisons at the bottom!
1. AAMC Careers in Medicine
"Careers in Medicine" (CiM) is great for exploring a field of medicine in general. As you can see in the above screen shot, under the "Choose Your Specialty" tab, there are quizzes to learn more about yourself and examine your work environment values. There is also an exhaustive list of specialties with information like Work Hours, Competitiveness, Program Size, Typical Procedures, and Salary.
CiM is a great place to start, especially if you are unsure of what field you will go into. The actual information on each program is minimal in comparison. There are links to the program's actual website and FREIDA, which will be discussed later.
CiM requires that you have an AAMC login, which you should all have if you used AMCAS to apply to med school.
2. Doximity Residency Navigator
Doximity Residency Navigator is another great search tool because it synthesizes objective and subjective information in a clever and engaging way. Doximity definitely wins the award for the best looking platform. You can search a specialty by reputation, which is VERY subjective (I can't stress that enough), which can be helpful in narrowing down what spectrum of the programs you want to aim for based on your personal statistics.
What I enjoy about Doximity is the anonymous comments from current residents/former residents about the program. Are these comments all legit? Maybe not every single one, but I'm not sure what kind of loser you would have to be to spend your day trying to hack Doximity to persuade poor medical students to apply or not apply somewhere... Seems like a low yield strategy to influence people. The comments give a sense of what the program is like from the inside- the analogous equivalent of Amazon reviews describing your prospective suit's fit.
Doximity also requires you to have a login and some way to verify your student/resident/physician status through email. It is a very quick process if you haven't done it already.
"FREIDA online" is the mother of residency search tools. It is all the information that an actual residency program would give you about themselves. Practical details like resident salary, health insurance, childcare options, housing options, and many more are all included in varying capacity. This is the "OK, I could legitimately end up starting this program 12 months from now" website. That's the difference between applying for med school and applying for residency. This time around we WILL end up somewhere, we just don't know where yet.
If you are short on time and only want to review one resource, FREIDA will give you the most bang for your buck. Speaking of bucks, FREIDA requires you to be an AMA member to use this service. I like to use FREIDA to compare nitty gritty details like health insurance, food stipends, and hour comparisons.
BONUS: Cost of Living Calculator
Sperling's Best Places Cost of Living Calculator is an excellent tool to give you just the right amount of information to help you make your decision without overwhelming you with too many details. My wife and I use it every time we are considering a program. I like the extra details besides cost that it includes, like a relative crime rating.
I will give the caveat that the above calculator does a great job comparing cities IF you put in the exact city where you plan to live. If you are comparing 2 downtown areas, it is very effective. If you are comparing 1 downtown area with 1 suburb where your home actually would be, the calculator is less effective. But, by putting in a city that you don't plan to live within the actual borders, you will skew your data, so be literal with your search input.
PS- the income part of the equation is extremely helpful since you'll know pretty much exactly how much you'll be making over the next 4 years.
I hope you find the above tools as useful as I do, and I wish you the best on your quest for the perfect residency, "suited" just for you. Let me know what you think and where you end up applying!