This article was originally published here
J Am Acad Orthop Surg Glob Res Rev. 2021 Oct 4;5(10). doi: 10.5435/JAAOSGlobal-D-21-00091.
INTRODUCTION: The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the cancellation of away rotations and other experiences fundamental to orthopaedic surgery residency application. Limited information is available on the experiences of applicants and program directors (PDs) during the COVID-19 pandemic residency application cycle. This study aimed to evaluate the current perspectives of applicants and PDs regarding the orthopaedic surgery residency application process.
METHODS: This was a cross-sectional study using 2 independent but similar surveys that addressed multiple aspects of the application process during the COVID-19 pandemic, including perceived effect of virtual experiences. Between February and March 2021, the surveys were distributed to orthopaedic surgery applicants and orthopaedic residency PDs.
RESULTS: In total, 113 applicants (20.1%) and 29 PDs (19.6%) completed the survey. Applicants applied to 97.6 programs and received 13.3 interviews. They participated in 2.4 virtual away rotations. In total, 79.3% of programs reported offering some form of virtual opportunity, including virtual away rotations (24.0%), virtual happy hours (64.0%), and virtual conferences (64.0%). Programs offering virtual away rotations hosted 46.8 rotators and only invited back 54.5% for an interview. Applicants were most concerned about the lack of away rotations, the interview, and networking during this cycle, and 51% reported less confidence in matching. The most important factors for influencing applicant rank lists were perceived happiness of residents, resident camaraderie, and geographic location. However, residency program social events were not well replicated in a virtual setting.
DISCUSSION: The COVID-19 pandemic presented new challenges for applicants and PDs. Applicants had less clinical exposure and received less interview invites after virtual away rotations. Despite applying to more programs, applicants received fewer interviews than in previous years. The virtual experiences adopted in this cycle did not adequately replicate the social factors that applicants found most important when ranking a program. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, PDs most highly valued away rotation performance, clinical rotation performance, and board examination scores when offering interviews.