Perceptions of Plastic Surgery Residency Applicants of a Virtual Interview Cycle
Abra H. Shen1, Eric Shiah1, Benjamin A. Sarac2, Amy M. Maselli1, Amer H. Nassar1, Bernard T. Lee1, Jeffrey E. Janis2, Samuel J. Lin1
1Division of Plastic Surgery, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts; 2Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
BACKGROUND: The 2020-2021 residency application cycle marked the first year of fully virtual integrated plastic surgery interviews. The virtual format was a double-edged sword for applicants with several advantages such as reduced costs and time lost from travel and disadvantages as the novel format introduced new stressors on top of an already demanding process. Concerns included unfair interview invitation (II) distribution, interview hoarding, and assessing fit virtually. In this study, we aimed to understand applicants' experiences of the 2020-2021 virtual plastic surgery interview cycle.
METHODS: A survey was sent to 330 applicants in the 2020-2021 integrated plastic surgery application cycle. The survey included questions about participant demographics, pre-interview preparation, virtual interview experiences, and post-interview process. Statistical comparisons were performed on responses using SPSS.
RESULTS: Eighty-nine participants responded to the survey, representing a 27.0% response rate. Applicants received an average of 13.3 IIs (range 0-45) and attended an average of 11.4 interviews (range 0-30). Almost half (48.2%) did not feel IIs were distributed equitably and more than half (68.2%) reported that there should be a limit on the number of IIs an applicant can accept. Most proposed a limit between 15 and 20 interviews. The majority (64.7%) of participants were either somewhat satisfied or extremely satisfied with the virtual interviewing experience. Participants' responses to how well they felt they were able to showcase themselves and assess the strengths, weaknesses, fit, and culture of plastic surgery residency programs are illustrated in Figure 1. In terms of costs, 88.1% reported spending $500 or less on virtual interviews. Half (50.6%) participated in virtual sub-internships and of these, 33 participants (71.7%) became significantly more interested in a program after participating in their VSI and 14 (30.4%) became significantly less interested. When asked about Match violations, 36.1% reported that they had experienced at least one Match violation, 3.6% were unsure, and 9.6% preferred not to answer.
CONCLUSIONS: The inaugural virtual interview cycle had several advantages and disadvantages. Lessons learned from this year could be utilized towards building a more equitable, fair, and effective potential virtual cycle in years to come.
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