It’s safe to say COVID-19 has changed the course of many lives in a matter of just a few short months. It is responsible for the change in school schedules, cancelation of vacations, and postponement of weddings. It is also responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people, a surge in mental health cases, and increasing unemployment rates.
While COVID-19 may impact your medical education, you can still continue your journey to practicing medicine in the U.S. All you need is a little flexibility and patience. In this post, we cover how COVID-19 may, both directly and indirectly, affect the process of applying and matching into a U.S. residency position in the coming years.
The 2021 Application Schedule Remains the Same
While medical colleges are pushing their application deadlines back, the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) is not planning to make any changes to the 2021 Main Residency Match. Applications for the 2021 Match open mid-September, which is still several months away. The decision to avoid changing the Match application schedule at this point may seem irresponsible; in reality, it is anything but that.
The NRMP understands the critical role they play in facilitating the postgraduate education of future U.S. medical professionals. Like AMO, they know that current education means future healthcare security.
USMLE Postponements Might Effect Applicant Eligibility
While the 2021 Main Residency Match schedule may not be changing, travel restrictions and social distancing guidelines are impacting the ability of many medical graduates to meet application requirements. Some individuals may have issues gaining ECFMG certifications as the USMLE began postponing exams in March. According to the USMLE’s website, most testing locations and exams will be delayed through May, except certain sites. For additional information on which testing sites are still open, click here.
Although some testing sites are operating, this won’t impact those who are restricted from traveling to the U.S. The USMLE is waiving rescheduling fees to alleviate the concerns of these individuals. While the USMLE’s efforts may help students worried about paying for another test, it won’t help them stay on track when it comes to securing a medical residency. Students who have not passed the USMLE and obtained a certification with the ECFMG before the deadline to apply for the Match will have no choice but to delay their postgraduate medical education. If travel restrictions due to COVID-19 continue, the USMLE stated they will consider implementing virtual testing.
Travel Restrictions Might Put a Pause on Earning LoRs
Aside from issues taking the USMLE and obtaining an ECFMG certification, prospective applicants may find it challenging to complete clinical experiences. Completing clinical experiences within the U.S. is essential to applying for the Match as the experiences allow individuals to gain letters of recommendation from U.S. physicians. In most cases, applicants need three of these letters to be considered viable candidates. Like the USMLE, many sites have made changes that allow visitors to complete clinical experiences at this time. These include introducing aspects of telemedicine (also referred to as telehealth) and providing visitors with proper personal protective equipment to keep them in good health.
Again, this does not make a difference for individuals who cannot travel at this time. They will still be unable to complete clinical experiences and, thus, unable to earn the letters of recommendation needed to be fully considered for a medical residency in the U.S.
To get around the obstacle of travel restrictions, AMOpportunities launched a number of online telehealth clinical experiences that individuals can participate in from the comfort of their homes. Like our in-person experiences, these are four-weeks long and allow individuals to gain experience with the U.S. healthcare system and earn a letter of recommendation. These clinical experiences can also allow individuals to save on time and money that would be spent on planning and paying for travel, housing, meals, health insurance, and a visa. Telehealth is the future of medicine.
Want additional information on our online telehealth clinical experiences?
Financial Constraints May Effect Spots Available
If you are planning to apply to the 2021 Main Residency Match and can meet the requirements, you might be thinking there will be less competition. While it’s true that some students may not be able to meet application requirements, a decrease in the applicant pool may not mean much if residency programs don’t experience the same growth that they have in the past.
The 2022 Match Could Be Competitive
If there are fewer applicants and seats for the 2021 match, there may be greater competition in the next year. If this is the case, applicants will need to find a way to stand out. Applicants can standout by attending residency interviews, having strong letters of recommendation, and seeking out supplemental learning experiences, which they can include in their curriculum vitae. For additional ways to stand out when it comes to applying for residency, click here.
Did you know a stellar letter of recommendation could help you stand out in the Match?
You can earn one by completing a clinical experience with AMO! Many of our sites are open and looking to fill seats for the upcoming months.