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Nova Southeastern University
College of Osteopathic Medicine
Emergency Medicine Society's

The Emergency Medicine Interview Guide

    Many books with far more authority and expertise than my own are published on this subject. The intention here is to give the hopeful EM resident some background information about the finer points of the interview process. If you are fortunate enough to be selected for an interview, you can take some comfort in making the initial cut. During the 2005 application year, some emergency medicine programs accepted anywhere from 500-700 applications. Approximately 100 to 150 candidates are selected to interview for a set number of spots. Receiving an interview greatly enhances your chance of matching.

I. The Interview Day

Be prepared to spend some bucks on travel and lodging. It is always a good idea to spend some time in the institution's emegency department, but additional observation time is not always feasible. Typical interview days start at 8:00 pm and end sometime in the early afternoon. You'll meet the program director or his/her designee, residents, attending physicians, and program staff. You'll receive materials about the benefit packages, program structure, and curriculum outline. Try to download information from the program's website so that you'll be prepared to ask and answer questions. Informed inquiries may help you to stand out as a serious candidate when the program considers its ROL formulation.

II. What are some common questions ?

Most program directors understand that you'll be making multiple interview stops. Faculty don't expect you to impress them with challenging inquires into the meaning of life. The informational session that takes place the morning of the interview date will provide you with necessary background material. The goal is NOT to impress the PD's but to satisfy your own curiosity. The more you know about individual programs, the more comfortable you will feel with finalizing the rank order list. Some generic questions to consider are:
1) What are off service rotations like ?
2) How is the trauma service handled ?
This is a politically loaded question and will shed some insight on how your EM program cooperates with the surgical departments.. One program's faculty member, for example, boasted that anesthesia should never be called down to assist with trauma intubations. His residents took great pride in running virtually all aspects of the trauma resuscitation. On the other hand, some attending physicians see any type of trauma resuscitation "co management" by surgical and ED attending physicians as a weakness.
3) What is the ultrasound experience like ?
4) How well do patients flow through the emergency department?
5) Do residents gain experience in both academic and community hospital EDs?
6) Does the anesthesia component include dedicated exposure to pediatric airways ?
7) What are the in-department radiology facilities ?
8) What is the EMS experience entail?
9) What are the research opportunities / requirements ?
10) What is the ABEM pass rate for written and oral boards ?
11) What are resident benefits in addition to the stipend (conferences / PDAs, insurance, food, etc.)
12) Who makes the rank list?

III. A Question of Commitment

The NMRP's code of conduct does NOT prevent you from expressing interest in a particular program. Match violations are serious business, but you should feel comfortable expressing your desire to attend a residency. Some programs rank candidates without regard to personal preferences. Still others place at least some emphasis on the candidate's own desires. It is absolutely acceptable to ask program directors what influence, if any, your personal preference might have on the ROL formulation. When you meet with a program's residents, ask them if their program was a top choice and how they communicated their interest to the PD and faculty. To tell a program with absolutely certainty that you "will rank them number one" might pose a problem should you decide against ranking them. Emergency Medicine residency directors are a close knit bunch and appreciate honest communication. If a program is to your liking and it is undeniably your number one choice, it is probably wise to express that to the program director.

IV. Interview Odds and Ends

Send a thank you email or letter to the program and keep in constant touch with them. Virtually everything makes it into your candidate file. If nothing else, a thank you letter keeps your name fresh in a program's collective mind. Collect email addresses of residents and program directors. Emergency medicine faculty recognize the value of assertiveness. Furthermore, forward any honors, recognitions, or additional grades to the appropriate program coordinator. It is always acceptable to update your file.

V. Second Looks

A "second look" is an accessory method of expressing interest. Again, there is little science to support your decision to make a second visit to any emergency medicine program. If you did not rotate at an institution and feel that your interview didn't express "the full you" then spend the extra bucks for another flight or train ride. Some programs encourage these second looks. As always, there are several views on this one issue. Your best bet is to follow the advice of program faculty or directors. If you are told that, "we have absolutely no questions about your application," then a second look is probably overkill. Should the PD advise you that, "second looks are always encouraged," then it is clear that the second look is interpreted as a show of interest. Direct feedback from people who make the decisions is always most accurate!


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