What You Want to Know About EM Residency Programs

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As medical students, we are in love with understanding our future. If crystal balls ever become available on Amazon Prime, we’ll all choose same-day shipping. How many times have you asked upperclassmen about exams or questioned them about the “stories” of 3:30 a.m. mornings during surgery clerkship? That’s who we are. Knowing what is around the corner prepares us for the future and guides our current decision-making. As they say in the South, never jump into a cloudy pond (you know, snapping turtles and all).

In an effort to filter the pond, the EMRA Medical Student Council (MSC), in coordination with the Council of Emergency Medicine Residency Directors (CORD) and the Clerkship Directors in Emergency Medicine (CDEM), conducted a survey with just one simple question: What characteristics of emergency medicine residency programs are the most important to you?

A residency program is like a family. Some are big, and some are small. Some eat at the dinner table, and some bunch up on the sofa in front of the TV. But there’s no way to know that as an outsider. Yet as medical students, we are more comfortable and confident in our decision-making when we have access to information. Therefore, the MSC sent out this survey to help students apply to residency programs with more confidence in finding their best “fit” (Figure 1). After all, selecting a residency program is a life-changing decision.

Figure 1. Applicant Ranking of Program Characteristics When Choosing an Emergency Medicine Residency 

Program Factor Percentage of
Applicants Ranking
as Important (n = 261)
Hospital type — University vs. County vs. Community vs. Mix 78.2% (204)
Hours worked per shift (8 vs. 10 vs. 12) 66.7% (174)
Number of shifts per month 63.2% (165)
USMLE scores required for consideration 59.8% (156)
Hospital ED visits per year 56.7% (148)
Program size by total number of current residents 49.4% (129)
Culture description of the ED program provided by the program 48.3% (126)
Is moonlighting allowed 43.3% (113)
% DO & % IMG currently in program 42.1% (110)
Compensation & meals paid/credit by the hospital 37.9% (99)
Number of weeks spent in the ED during intern year (R1) 37.5% (98)
Accredited fellowships 34.9% (91)
Percentage of graduates entering fellowship/academic jobs 31.8% (83)
Dedicated children’s ED at the main training hospital 30.7% (80)
Research requirement vs. scholarly activity only 21.1% (55)
Total alumni from the program 6.9% (18)

*N.B. Geographic location and program length were excluded from the survey because of their known importance.

Our mission was to expose the factors students take into consideration when evaluating an emergency medicine residency program. The survey was completed by 261 EMRA students, of which 210 were MSIVs. It represented a demographic of roughly 67% MD, 27% DO, and 6% IMG. As you will see, this survey uncovered quite useful data for students and program directors alike.

Our next step is to capitalize on this data by integrating it within EMRA Match. With the help of our collaborators, we are confident that students will soon have a trusted platform to guide their decision-making when applying to emergency medicine residency programs.

The MSC’s sole purpose is to ensure that medical students who dream of becoming emergency physicians are equipped with the knowledge they need to reach their goals. If you want to be a part of change and help shape your future career, apply for the MSC by Feb. 15 on EMRA.org.

Don’t lose a toe in the cloudy pond; know what you are looking for and go after it!

Sean Ochsenbein, MSIV

Sean Ochsenbein, MSIV

East Tennessee State University Quillen College of Medicine, Johnson City, TN; @OchsenbeinMED
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