By Elizabeth K. Bisaccia, Pharm.D., BCPPS, clinical pharmacy specialist – general pediatrics, C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, Michigan Medicine, Ann Arbor
In 2016, a paper by Phillips and colleagues discussed the results of a survey reviewing the factors most associated with a pharmacy student matching with a residency program. The results of this survey found that the number of applications, number of interviews, pharmacy school grade point average and female gender were all significant predictors for matching with a residency.1 In this survey, significantly more females applied to residency programs than males. No differences were noted for activities such as work experience, leadership positions or participation in student organizations. The results of this survey were surprising, given how residency programs often discuss the attributes of an ideal candidate.
Most preceptors and program directors acknowledge that the characteristics of an ideal resident extend far beyond grade point average. Marta Miyares did an excellent job describing the traits of an ideal resident in her 2013 paper.2 The resident she describes possesses traits that are both intrinsic and teachable. Clinical knowledge is an important backbone for a successful residency, yet clinical skills can be taught and reinforced throughout the residency year. Practical skills, such as time management, are also often considered essential in an ideal resident. Much like clinical skills, these applied skills can be optimized and coached during the course of residency training.
However, the other traits Miyares references in her paper are tremendously difficult to teach and can be even more challenging to identify: self-awareness, a commitment to continuing improvement, pride in the profession, innovation and a strong understanding of ethically sound decision making.2 These traits are virtually impossible to measure on paper or to assess in interviews. Nevertheless, one can argue that these character traits are vital in a highly successful resident and become even more important once the resident graduates into their practice. Most programs want to foster residents who will make significant contributions to patients and the profession. Therefore, it is important for programs to ask critical questions when considering recruitment. How does a program director successfully screen for these skills? How does a program attract candidates that possess these inherent traits?
Programs often discuss and debate the ideal characteristics of resident candidates. Similarly, candidates also debate and discuss the characteristics of an ideal program. The resident match is as much about the program as it is the candidate. It is important to remember that the decision to pursue a residency is a private commitment to one’s education, professional development and personal growth. It is a deeply personal decision that students and residents make during the course of their training, usually as a chapter of their lives is coming to a close and an educational milestone is achieved. Candidates select programs with careful consideration. As such, it is important that residency programs strive to provide the ideal program to candidates and remain attractive to the pool of increasingly competitive candidates.
Miyares focuses on the importance of transparency and the decision to respect each learner’s strengths and weaknesses in her analysis of an ideal program.2 Additionally, it is important to understand that programs must remain focused on the clinical progression and professional development of the resident throughout the residency year. As a profession, it is important to continue to provide residency training that is in the best interest of the resident. If a program can continue to make resident education and development the first priority, residency candidates of excellent quality will apply, interview and match.
- Phillips JA, McLaughlin MM, Rose C, et al. Student characteristics associated with successful matching to a PGY1 residency program. Am J Pharm Educ 2016;80(5):84.
- Miyares MA. The ideal resident: perspective from a residency program director. Hosp Pharm 2013;48(10):825-7.