Traditionally, potential residents and fellows are invited to in-person interviews with program directors, faculty members, and staff, to determine if they’re a good fit for a particular program. But the COVID-19 pandemic made in-person interviews risky and against health official recommendations. Programs across the country have had to make radical shifts in how they vet up-and-coming physicians. Bree Bower and her team in the anesthesiology and pain medicine department at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio studied the affects of COVID-19 on fellow recruitment, and presented their work in the Poster Hall at the 2021 ACGME Annual Educational Conference in February 2021.
Poster: Virtual Recruiting in Graduate Medical Education during COVID-19
Author(s): Bree Bower; Erica Sivak, MD; Stephani Kim, PhD, MPH; Marco Corridore, MD
ACGME: Tell us about your academic and professional role.
Bower: I am a program coordinator, so my professional role is robust. I work with my program directors to improve, change, and promote our fellowships. I am a leader, mentor, and friend to our fellows, and I manage all the non-clinical aspects of our fellowship programs. My desire to improve our fellowship program drove me to start developing more of an academic role to complement my professional role. My academic role is centered on researching and test-driving new processes and methods that can improve our programs.
ACGME: Can you briefly describe your project for us?
Bower: Our project looked at the impact that COVID-19 had on the ability to recruit in graduate medical education. We were specifically interested in how the faculty viewed our virtual interviewing method compared to previous years of interviewing candidates in-person. Overall, our faculty enjoyed virtual interviews and found them to be an efficient method for recruiting. Therefore, we are exploring hybrid methods of interviewing in the future to ensure that we’re maximizing the positive experiences of both the virtual and in-person interviews.
ACGME: What inspired you to do this project?
Bower: The COVID-19 pandemic was the catalyst for this project. Otherwise, we would have proceeded with our in-person method of interviewing fellowship candidates just like every other program in the nation! We desired to give candidates a sense of our culture, and we felt that the video component of virtual interviews may be able to accomplish that. Once we began to interview virtually, my team became curious about the impact that these forced changes could have on future recruiting seasons. We began to notice the strong benefits to interviewing virtually, specifically the savings in time and money, and had the desire to move forward with similar methods of interviewing for future recruitment seasons. Due to our faculty being so involved in the interview process, it was important for us to gather their insight.
ACGME: What did you discover?
Bower: There are many strong benefits to interviewing virtually, and these benefits are experienced by everyone involved in the interview process—including faculty members. This was evident in our faculty survey responses. After our first season of virtual interviews, half of our involved faculty members prefer it over the in-person method.
ACGME: What was the main takeaway?
Bower: Future innovations using virtual platforms are promising, so further research is necessary.
ACGME: Who could benefit from this?
Bower: Anyone involved in graduate medical education.
ACGME: Any additional follow-up plans?
Bower: We are preparing to interview virtually again this year. We will be implementing a few process changes and hope to be able to implement a hybrid model of interviews in 2022!