New Recommendations for 2021-2022 Medical Student Away Rotations

April 14, 2021

On April 14, the Coalition for Physician Accountability released an update to its Jan. 25 recommendations on medical student away rotations in the 2021-22 academic year. The recommendations are an update to earlier guidance published on May 11, 2020.

The ACGME is a member of the Coalition, a cross-organizational group of national medical education organizations.

The April 2021 recommendations include the following guidance:

  • Recommendation 1 (Unchanged): The work group recommends that for the remainder of the 2020-21 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.

Individuals meeting these exceptions should limit the number of away rotations as much as possible. Students should consider geographically proximate programs, when appropriate, to meet learning needs.

Programs and specialty societies are encouraged to develop alternate approaches to meeting goals of away rotations, as described in the Compendium of Resources. 

  • Recommendation 2 (New): The improved vaccination status of medical students led to the updated recommendation that for the 2021-22 academic year, away rotations resume during the first block concluding in July 2021, with additional guidance:
  • Beginning on April 15, learners may apply for and schedule in-person away rotations with a date concluding in July or later. This recognizes that not all rotations are aligned with the calendar month. Rotations may have a start date in June if the end date is in July (the rotation block must conclude in July).
  • 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, per specialty (as previously recommended) 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.
  • Learners for whom away rotations are required for graduation or accreditation are exempted from this guidance.
  • These are general guidelines. Every student should, as always, consider all risks and benefits of any away rotation in consultation with their medical school advisor. 
  • If conditions deteriorate substantially, the work group may update this guidance.

This guidance is intended to add to, but not supersede, the independent judgment of a medical school, sponsoring institution or residency program regarding the immediate needs of its patients and preparation of its learners.

Read more about the Coalition for Physician Accountability COVID-19 guidance.