On the last day of my away rotation!

Away rotations or visiting student electives are not required, but depending on your goals it may be something to consider. Historically, away rotations were for certain “competitive” specialties such as plastic surgery, dermatology, EM, ENT, etc. I’ve personally noticed that people from almost all specialties are participating. OB/GYN is getting more and more competitive each year and some applicants choose to do an away rotation to stand out. I applied to a pretty decent number of electives because of this. At the time, I felt like I had to apply to a bunch with hopes that at least one would accept me. I got a lot of rejections guys- and only 1 acceptance. All it takes is one. I won’t reveal the program because it’s just something I want to keep private. I had a great time, learned a lot and the residents were great! I got to see a different hospital culture and it showed me other things that are actually important to me in a residency program that I may not have been exposed to at my home institution.

Most programs accept applications via the AAMC’s Visiting Studen Learning Opportunities (VSLO) and the Visiting Student Application Service (VSAS) – each application costs $45+. I applied to one that cost $100. Before you apply be aware that you may need:

  • Brief biography (about 250 words)

  • Headshot/professional photo (mine was taken on my iPhone)

  • Step 1/2 scores

  • CV

  • Immunization record/Proof of COVID-19 vaccination

  • Transcript (your school typically uploads this)

Have these ready so that you aren’t scrambling and can just submit the application when it opens up. When I applied, the application opened on a particular day and programs could see your application that same day! It was a little stressful, but often programs would state whether applications would be reviewed on a rolling basis or if you just needed to submit by the listed deadline. A few programs don’t use VSAS and may have a separate means of submitting an application, such as mailing in a paper application or their own online application service.

What are some things you should consider when applying?

Is this program a “reach” for you? Often that means you have lower Step scores. I was in this situation, so I decided to apply. Maybe you want to go across the country. For example, if you are from NJ and want to go to a residency program in California, an away rotation might be useful to show the program that you are interested in moving across the country. Maybe none of these apply to you and you just like the idea of a program! Why not go see actually see if it’s something you would like in reality?

I want to remind you that an away rotation is a month-long audition/interview. You have to go and be on your A-game at all times. I was warned so many times that it’s easy to mess up once or piss off the wrong person which could potentially ruin your chances of getting an interview. I would hear that and think “I have home training- I’m respectful and professional”. So just keep this in mind and go do your best as you would do on any rotation.

URiM students should be aware that often programs have minority scholarships that may include a stipend to offset some of these costs (examples that I know on the east coast- Mount Sinai, Columbia/NYP, Harvard, UPenn) on the West Coast I know that Stanford was very vocal about there’s. This is not an all-inclusive list, just some examples I can think of off the top of my head.

What do you do once you are accepted and start the rotation?

  1. Get clear instructions on what expectations are from the clerkship director and your residents. Being upfront with everyone helps you know how you can contribute to the team and you’ll know what you can do to improve over time.

  2. SHOW UP EARLY. I was on a maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) rotation, but I would aim to show up 30-45 mins before my residents. This gave me time to have a sip of coffee, check up on my patients, and be prepared for rounds if I had a lot of patients- that way I didn’t have to rush and could be thorough during my chart review of the events that occurred overnight.

  3. If you know you are going to have to do a presentation at the end of the rotation, start early! Brainstorm some ideas based off of your interests and ask your residents for their thoughts.

  4. One of the hardest things about an away rotation is trying to get used to a new EMR if it’s different from what you are used to at your home institution. Just learning where to go around the hospital can be a challenge! Show yourself some grace- this is a foreign land for you. I promise by the second week you have a better idea of how to get around and what to click in a patient’s chart.

Check out my previous blog post on how to be a great Sub-Intern/Acting Intern! I took my own advice, so I promise there are some more gems there!

Final Thoughts

I want you to know that if you get rejected from an away rotation(s) it does not necessarily mean that you wan’t get an invitation to interview for residency. I remember thinking that and I actually did get interviews at a few of the places I was rejected from! I just don’t want you to get discouraged if that happens to you. Often they can only take 1 student per month! Sometimes the rotation will offer visiting students an interview automatically. This wasn’t the case for my rotation, but it’s nice to know.

Overall, I want to reiterate that participating in an away rotation is not required It takes a lot of mental, emotional, and financial energy. You have to go live somewhere else for a month- that means rent, transportation, and food. Just be aware that this is not cheap. If you are going to do it, you better go SHOW OUT! This could be your future residency program if you like it. As much as it’s a month-long audition, this is your time to see if you feel like you could fit in at this program and if you could imagine yourself living in that city for 4+ years. If you have any other questions about applying or what to do once you are there, don’t hesitate to reach out to me on IG @afrosandanatomy. Thanks for reading!

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