What are Your Chances of Matching in Anesthesiology Residency?
This is a questions that comes up every 2-3 years either in the Student Doctor Forums (SDN) forums or in medical school students that I talk with.
Typically, the medical student posts some USMLE/COMLEX scores (with or without a GPA) and sends a message out to the world of “What are my chances of getting into Anesthesia?” There is usually a flurry of responses on message boards that have quite the range: “You should just go into Family Medicine.” “I heard of a guy from my school that got into Residency X with scores just like that.”
Maybe you are asking yourself the same question “What are my chances of getting into Anesthesiology Residency with my Step scores?”
In the sections that follow, I will coach you on how trying to figure out this question for yourself, because your situation is unique and you are a unique applicant.
Is Anesthesiology a Good Fit for You?
Before you even go down the path of “Can I get in?”, you should be asking “Is Anesthesiology a good fit for me?”
I don’t want you to ask “Is Anesthesiology a good specialty?” or “Is Anesthesiology have good compensation?” or “Is Anesthesiology residency easier than Emergency Medicine?”
Anesthesiology is not for everyone, and it is better that you try and figure that out before embarking on a training path towards a specialty that you will to enjoy. If you can find something else that you will like better, then go after that.
Before you go any further, you should check out another article of mine 5 Ways to See if Anesthesiology is a Good Fit for You. You will find resources and links to help you with the process. Read through the article, then come back here and read on.
Are you Asking the Right Question?
While you are asking the “Can I get in?”, residency programs are asking “Can they graduate once they get here?”
In years gone by, it was enough just to get into anesthesiology residency. Once you got in, you had a high likelihood of graduating. Even if you did not pass your Anesthesiology Boards after graduation, you could still still practice in the field of anesthesiology. Sure, one of the criteria that the ACGME used to judge programs was (and still is) Board Certification pass rates, but some programs had this as an after thought, because they had spots to fill. If you were a hard worker and could do the job, you were in.
Now, with the new Anesthesiology Board Anesthesiology (ABA) Certification System, you will be taking The Basic Anesthesiology Exam in the June of your PGY-2 year. This is a “hard stop” exam which means if you do not pass this exam, you do not graduate from residency. (You have up to 3 times to take the exam, without having to extend your residency.) Because programs have always been focused on matriculation rates, they have a vested interest in making sure that their residents will be able to graduate from the program. Not only does the residency program have a keen eye on graduation rates, so does the ABA and the ACGME.
What we do know that you have a better chance at matching if you are from a US Medical school, you are less than 29 years old, and you are female. At this point in your training, it is hard to change these factors.
So what kinds of things to residency programs look at when deciding on applicants?
USMLE/COMLEX Scores & Class Rank
USMLE/COMLEX scores are a strong predictor for the ability to pass the Anesthesiology Written Exam it makes sense that there is a large emphasis on the Step Scores by Anesthesiology Residency Programs.
How high of a USMLE/COMLEX score do you need to be competitive? Even if you view yourself as a “great candidate”, you have to do the very best you can on these standardized exams. Programs will be looking at both Step 1 & Step 2 of the exams. What kinds of scores are expected of applicants depends on the program. There are some programs that will automatically weed you out if you have ever failed a Step exam. Others have minimal Step 1 & 2 requirements for applicants. (The most common minimal scores I have seen 220) If you don’t achieve these scores, the program director may never see your application because it is weeded out by a secretary.
How do you stand? You can look at either the latest match statistics from the NRMP or you can check out www.matchapplicants.com to see how Step 1 and Step 2 scores from your medical school faired with others around the country.
What About an Audition Rotation
Aside from your Step Scores, Class Rank, and GPA, an audition rotation, at the residency where you want to potentially match, is one of the best things you can do to improve your chances of getting your application through the application gauntlet.
Doing well on an audition rotation, at the residency program where you want to go may help you get your foot in the door for an interview. (On the flip side of the coin, doing an audition rotation may actually hurt you if you don’t do well.) You will want to put your best foot forward when you do your rotation and make the most of the time that you have at the facility. I wrote a article for Student Doctor Network on hacking your Anesthesiology Audition Rotation. It will give you an in-depth description of the top 5 things you can do to make the most of your rotation.
Are You a Good Fit for their Specific Residency?
Even though all ACGME accredited programs follow the same rules and regulations, each residency programs has its own culture and type of resident that tends to do well there. If all things were the same, it would be far better that you match into a program where you have a better fit than one where you don’t fit as well. When you have a good fit in a program, you will learn more, enjoy your time more, and have a relatively good time in residency.
Part of the fit of a program is your support system in the area. While not having friends/family in the same area as your would be residency is not a deal breaker, it can certainly help your case as to why you would be good fit. Residency is a trying time, and having a support system in the area will definitely help you as you go through your training.
What About Research?
Unlike dermatology where research is required, Anesthesiology programs do not have a requirement for research, but it may help you chances of getting in. If you pick an area, try and have it be related to the field of anesthesiology … either Intra-opertaive, Critical Care Medicine, or Pain Management. The more relevant to the field of anesthesiology, the better. Look for ways to get on abstracts, poster presentations, and on journal articles. Contact your school’s anesthesiology department and see if they have some projects going on with which you could help. If your school does not have an anesthesiology department, talk with the department at your audition rotation to see if you could help out there.
Unless you did something really remarkable, your extracurricular actives probably won’t help overcome a poor academic record. Go ahead and join the ASA as a student member, join the local Anesthesia Interest Group, and find some kind of physical activity to burn some stress off. Finding something interesting about yourself to help you stand out is a good thing. If you can’t think of anything, then find a physical activity that you like (running, cycling, hot yoga) something that you might be able to talk about and connect with the interviewers about.
There are many factors that go into getting into an Anesthesiology Residency. First figure out if Anesthesiology is a good fit (art link), then do your best on your Step Scores, kick butt on your Audition Rotation, find some research, and get a life by getting some extracurricular activities under your belt.
Looking for some other Anesthesiology resources for medical students?
5 Ways to See if Anesthesiology is a Good Fit for You. I think that before you look at how good a candidate you are, you should find out if anesthesiology is a good fit for you in the first place. Anesthesiology is a great fit for me, but it might not be a good fit for you. But how would you know?Check out my article on 5 Ways to See if Anesthesiology is a Good Fit for You.
Book for Your Anesthesiology Audition Rotation
Still don’t own a copy? I wrote this book for you. The reason I wrote Anesthesia Made Easy was because the basic anesthesia books are just too big and have too much information for the new anesthesia trainee. It is one part textbook and one part survival guide, it is a high yield book that will get you started on your career in anesthesiology. Anesthesia Made Easy is available as either a paperback or Kindle version from Amazon.com.
This is a classic for medical school students like you. It gives you information on all the different medical specialties and tips for applying to the different specialties. This book (an earlier edition obviously) was one of my favorite books in medical school. If you are still tying to figure out what specialty to choose, or if you are applying for residency, Iserson’s will give you vital information to help you in your quest. It is available on Amazon.com only as a paperback.
The Successful Match 2017: Rules for Success in the Residency Match is a good resource Many reviewers on amazon.com found this resource helpful. The Successful Match is a full service book that talks about preparing your application such as the Curriculum Vitae (CV) and Letters of Recommendation and goes on to talk about Interview Questions and the actual Interview day. It comes as a paperback.