Friday, February 3, 2012

ReSiDeNcY !

Posted by Melanie at Friday, February 03, 2012

This post highlights some of my experiences in the residency process thus far...........

1 -- What month to take OFF -- If you are considering pursuing a residency and plan on applying and interviewing at more than a couple of places, I HIGHLY suggest you take the month of February as your OFF month. Yes, having the month of December off so you can go to Midyear and enjoy the holidays sounds enticing, BUT the month of February is very stressful and you will have enough to worry about rather than trying to balance interviews and the requirements of a rotation and making up time you had to take off for interviews.

Having the month of February off has allowed me to spend time preparing for my interviews. I am able to spend adequate time reviewing programs, practicing interview questions, and preparing questions for the programs. It has also allowed me to have extra travel time -- I am only applying in Michigan but some places are still quite a hike from Ann Arbor, especially if you have to arrive to your interview by 8AM and it is a 2-3 hour trip, you might want to travel the day before and spend the night at a hotel. That being said, if you are applying around the country you need to be able to have time to fly out there and back.

2 -- Midyear -- I did not go to Midyear and I have secured five interviews. Keep in mind -- I am only pursuing residencies in the state of Michigan. I certainly DO NOT discourage anyone from attending Midyear as it is a great opportunity to network with people from other schools and gain experience with talking to people about their programs and what they have to offer -- AND there is the chance to discover a residency that might be perfect for you that you were not even aware of. However, if you feel like you are in the same boat as me and you are debating about whether you should go or not, have peace of mind knowing that you can still get interview offers.

That being said -- Instead of going to Midyear I networked with the institutions I was interested in using other means. 1 -- I went to the SMSHP Residency Showcase; 2-- I attended career gateway; 3 -- I contacted current residents or residency directors with questions that I had; 4 -- I explored websites for programs that had them available.

3-- Narrowing it down -- Because I knew I was not going to Midyear, I was able to take my list of programs that I had explored and narrow it down after Career Gateway. For those of you who go to Midyear, narrow your list down as soon as you get back, keeping in mind the deadline for some programs is the end of December.

I had a list of 13 programs I was interested in and narrowed it down to 6. How did I narrow it down? I had a list of criteria I was looking for - some of mine included a teaching component, a management rotation option, and a positive interaction with a program director or past/current resident. When it came down to it, only 6 of the programs had everything I was looking for in a PGY1 residency program.

4 -- Letters of Support -- Once I had my six programs picked out, I immediately notified my letters of support writers to inform them that I had picked out the institutions I was applying to. I gave them the deadlines for each institution and asked if they would be able to meet these deadlines. I am glad I did this because one of mine was unable to provide the letters in time. After I had received confirmation from the people who agreed to write my letters, I put together pre-addressed envelopes with stamps on them, printed off any forms that needed to be filled out, printed out instructions for how to complete each letter, and printed a copy of my CV. I gave each letter of support writer a packet with their information in person and also provided electronic copies of the forms, instructions, and my CV.

About 2.5 weeks prior to the first deadline, I sent an email out to each writer reminding them of the deadlines for each program.

5 -- TRANSCRIPTS -- For my U of M transcripts I went online and ordered transcripts to be sent right away to all of the programs AND another set of transcripts to be mailed after grades were posted. OF NOTE -- Some programs require undergrad transcripts (INCLUDING if you took a class at a community college or online). Be prepared to email the program director if you are unclear whether they want your undergrad transcripts or not. About half of my programs required undergrad while the others only wanted pharmacy transcripts. ANOTHER NOTE - None of my programs asked for an application "packet" but some of my peers' programs did. In that case you would have to order your transcript for pickup rather than direct mailing (same goes for letter of support).

6 -- APPLYING -- Some programs have application forms, some just require letters of intent and CVs, others require online submission. Make sure you are clear about the application materials. Once I had completed an entire application and sent it out (I sent them out at least 2 weeks prior to the deadline, asked the post office to put confirmation on them and when expected delivery was) I waited until a couple of days after the confirmation delivery date and then sent an email to the program directors informing them that I was applying to their program and all materials had been sent (note - I checked with my letter of support writers to make sure that they had sent their letters out) to them. All of the programs emailed me back saying that they have received my materials, which gave me peace of mind.

7 -- INTERVIEW OFFERS -- Most programs will contact you a couple weeks after the deadline has passed extending you an interview or politely declining. The programs I received interview offers from gave me a list of dates to rank for interviews. NOTE -- Keep track of the dates you are ranking for each place because a lot of the dates will OVERLAP and you need to make sure you don't rank Feb 3 for Program A as your number 1 choice and Feb 3 for Program B as your number 1 choice, as well. ALSO -- I ranked a list of four dates for program X and then program Y offered me an interview on one of those dates, I emailed program X to let them know my availability had changed and I was no longer available on that day. Some programs require a presentation and some programs require a patient case. Be prepared for that.

8 -- INTERVIEW PREP -- To prepare for interviews, I go through a bank of residency interview questions and try to answer that question. Even if the exact same questions aren't asked, similar questions will be and you will be able to pull from your practice sessions. I practiced with a friend (my BPFE - best pharmacy friend ever) who is also interviewing for residencies. It was nice to be able to bounce ideas off of each other. Don't be afraid to practice with a friend and give constructive criticism to each other. For example, if they give an answer that doesn't make them sound or look good, let them know because they are in an environment where they are able to think of another answer. We were bouncing questions off of each other and I gave several first attempts at answers that did not sound great, but after refining it, I felt comfortable giving an answer. I also participated in MOCK INTERVIEWS. If you are able to go to a mock interview through the school, I encourage it; if not, I encourage you to ask one of your past preceptors or employer if they would be willing to mock interview you. When taken seriously, mock interviews can feel like the real thing and even give you a sense of nervousness -- which is good to get out of the way before the real thing.

Before you go to the interview, research the institution, those who will be interviewing you, and the program. Be sure you know why you are applying to that program.

9 -- THE INTERVIEW -- Well I have only had two so far so I will comment on this more later. But I guess the best advice so far is to just relax and be yourself. Keep in mind that you are trying to see if it is a good fit for you as much as vice versa. Make sure you get a good night's sleep and wake up with enough time to get ready and get to where you are going. Unfamiliar cities can be scary and confusing when you are already nervous about an interview. The threat of being late will only enhance these anxieties. It is better to get there early and sit in a parking lot and collect your thoughts than to be frazzled and rushing.

That is all for now. I will let you know how things go....

No comments: