Updated Medical Student Away Rotation Recommendations Through the 2021-2022 Academic Year

January 25, 2021

The Coalition for Physician Accountability released updated recommendations on away rotations for the 2021-2022 academic year as the pandemic persists. The new January 25 recommendations supplement those released in May 2020. The ACGME is a member of the Coalition for Physician Accountability, which is comprised of national medical education organizations.

In addition to the updated recommendations listed below, the Coalition for Physician Accountability wants to make clear through its guiding principles that “[l]earners add value and contribute to patient care in the clinical learning environment; therefore, we advocate that they be given the opportunity to serve in a manner that promotes continuity of their education while safely meeting the needs of patients and the health care delivery system.”

Recommendation 1 (From May 2020): The work group recommends that for the remainder of the 2020-2021 academic year (ending June 30, 2021), away rotations should be discouraged, except under the following circumstances:

  • Learners who have a specialty interest and do not have access to a clinical experience with a residency program in that specialty in their school’s system.
  • Learners for whom an away rotation is required for graduation or accreditation requirements.

Recommendation 2 (NEW, January 2021)
: The work group recommends that for the 2021-2022 academic year, away rotations resume no earlier than August 1, 2021, with the following guidance:

  • After April 15, learners may begin applying for and scheduling in-person away rotations with a start date of August 1 or later.
  • Programs hosting learners for away rotations are encouraged to adhere to May 1 as the date to begin processing away rotation applications that begin on or after August 1.
  • Given the compressed timeline paired with an inadequate quantity of electives available for completion, medical schools are encouraged to limit approved away rotations in any specialty to one per learner, except in cases where additional rotations are needed to complete graduation or accreditation requirements. Residency programs are encouraged to take into consideration if a learner exceeded the one away rotation limit during the residency selection process.
  • Programs may continue to offer virtual electives to provide opportunities for learners to explore the specialty and program.
  • The work group will continue to monitor the information and plan to provide an update to the community no later than April 15, either confirming that August 1 remains an acceptable start date or creating a new start date.

The recommendations listed are intended to add to, but not supersede, the independent judgement of a medical school, sponsoring institution, or residency program regarding the immediate needs of its patients and the preparation of its learners. Moving forward, the Coalition for Physician Accountability will closely monitor COVID-19 mutations, PPE shortages, vaccine distribution, clinical environments, equity, and agency.

Executive Summary

Updated Recommendations


The Coalition work groups’ other statements, reports, and recommendations are available here.