When applying for residency, a good background in regards to solid U.S. clinical experience will be an absolute must. In fact, the quality level of your experience combined with your letters of recommendation will turn out to be just as important as your actual medical degree will when it comes to being chosen for a residency program. That said, it’s important make sure that your experience sets you apart from the rest of the crowd in all the right ways.
Hands-On Experience Vs. Non-Hands-On Experience
There are many ways you can go about obtaining U.S. clinical experience (USCE). However, it is important to note that not all of them are created equally. The standards set forth by most residency program directors are much higher and more discriminating than they once were. Once upon a time, a USCE source such as an observership that involved simply shadowing other physicians to learn the ropes of the medical practice was acceptable. Now, residency applicants who gained their U.S. clinical experience via solid, hands-on experience with patients, hospital staff, and records entry are being favored.
In order to maximize your chances of being accepted and prioritized, be sure to gain your USCE via a widely respected, fail-safe avenue such as a clinical elective rotation at an away facility with a terrific reputation. While you’re there, be sure to make the most of the opportunity to make contact with heavy-hitters in your specialty. There may be some stellar letters of recommendation in it for you. If you can manage to nail that balance between gaining valuable experience and gaining the respect and good opinion of those you work with during the process, you raise your desirability as an applicant considerably.
Why It’s Important to Gain your Clinical Experience in the U.S.
Just as important as the type of experience you gain is where you gain it. While it will certainly count as relevant clinical experience if you do your rotation in another country, it’s important to recognize the importance of getting your USCE actually in the U.S. Medical practice and protocol vary from nation to nation, so it gives you a distinct advantage if your program director knows you’ll be going directly into your U.S. residency program with a proper knowledge of how things are done.
U.S. clinical experience shows your program director that you’re culturally competent as far as the procedures and cultural norms of American hospitals and patient care. This will be an especially good asset to have in your corner if you’re of international origin, but planning on practicing medicine the United States.
Furthermore, clinical experience gained in the U.S. will show your residency director that you’re completely comfortable with how things are done in the United States. They – and you – can rest assured that you won’t be a fish out of water and that you will be able to ease right into your residency with very little learning curve or error. This will especially be the case if your letters of recommendation address your understanding of cultural norms and U.S.-specific medical knowledge directly.