Planning virtual residency interviews as a result of COVID-19: insight from residency applicants and physicians conducting interviews

Postgrad Med J. 2021 Jan 27;postgradmedj-2020-139182. doi: 10.1136/postgradmedj-2020-139182. Online ahead of print.


Background: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020-2021 residency interview process will undergo significant changes. Residency programme stakeholders would benefit from knowledge on what students and physicians expect from this process.

Objective: The purpose of the study was to describe and contrast the perspectives of student applicants and interviewing physicians related to the residency programme virtual interview process.

Methods: A survey consisting of 24 Likert statements was administered across listservs in summer 2020 to physicians (attendings and residents who interview medical students). Medical students also received an anonymous survey and were recruited via email to participate.

Results: A total of 155 individuals (104 fourth-year medical students and 51 physicians) completed a survey. Results showed students would prefer in-person interviews over virtual. Residency applicants had high agreement on the limited ability to fully assess the programme and city due to virtual interviews. Individuals with lower step 1 scores had higher agreement on preferring in-person interviews. Individuals in the lowest and highest scoring groups appear more worried about the representation of themselves as a result of virtual interviews. Furthermore, applicants feel that more weight will be placed on steps 1 and 2 scores and class ranks, and they may not be able to fully demonstrate their personality compared with interviewers.

Conclusion: The result of COVID-19 has created challenges and subsequent reshuffling of medical education requiring careful preparation and planning. This study provides insight for residency programmes to better understand the applicants' expectations for the 2020-2021 residency interview and matching process.

Keywords: medical education & training.