Who's Auditioning Who?: Applicant-Reported Elements of The Best and Worst Plastic Surgery Sub-Internships
Victoria A. Wickenheisser, MD1; Hannah M. Langdell, MD1, David A. Brown, MD1, Brett T. Phillips, MD, MBA1
1Division of Plastic, Maxillofacial and Oral Surgery, Duke University Hospital, Durham, NC, USA
Background: Integrated Plastic surgery continues to be one of the most competitive specialties for residency applicants with a 61.9% match rate in 2020. Many plastic surgery applicants choose to complete one or more visiting sub-internships or “away rotations” at programs outside of their home institution. These rotations provide an opportunity for both programs and applicants to learn more about each other and is considered one of the most important residency selection criteria for the Match. We sought to identify the factors that influence sub-internship experiences for plastic surgery applicants
Methods: An online, 28 question survey was designed to collect information about demographics, the sub-internship experience and interview preferences. Survey questions included multiple choice, rank order, free text and Likert scale. The survey was distributed via email in April 2020 to current plastic surgery interns and applicants who applied to Duke Plastic Surgery in the 2019-2020 application cycle
Results: The response rate was 35.2%. The mean number of sub-internships completed, home or away, was 4.47 (range, 2-7). The “defining feature” of respondents’ best sub-internship most commonly included engagement from faculty and residents, autonomy, and integration with the team. The “worst feature” of respondents’ worst sub-internship experience most commonly included a sense of disinterested or “malignant” residents and faculty, lacking operative/educational opportunities, and disorganization of the rotation. Respondents selected learning and social opportunities available (journal club, socializing with residents) to them on rotation and reported a higher total number of activities (654) on their best sub-internship as compared to their worst (446). Of respondents who completed sub-internships who were not invited back to interview, 63.3% were less likely to recommend rotating at that program to peers
Conclusion: The sub-internship experience remains a critical part of the applicant experience when applying to integrated plastic surgery residency programs. These rotations leave a lasting impression which is highly variable and influences future recommendations to peers. Rotating students value inclusivity and case volume, and they take note of negative interactions they witness among residents and faculty. These results can help as programs design their sub-internship experience for both in-person and virtual visiting students in the future.
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