The Impact of the COVID‐19 Pandemic on the 2020 Pediatric Anesthesiology Fellowship Application Cycle: A Survey of Applicants – DiGiusto – – Pediatric Anesthesia

Background

The COVID-19 pandemic created a situation with an urgent need to produce a virtual system for the 2019-2020 pediatric anesthesiology fellowship cycle. With fellowship interviews beginning in April 2020, there was minimal time to adapt. Each program rapidly developed its own platform, expectations, materials, and process for interviews, and applicants were exposed to a wide array of variability in the process – all while under the stress of interviewing for fellowship positions.

Aims

The aim of this survey-based study was to obtain input from applicants to help guide program decisions about “best practice” for the future for both pediatric anesthesiology and other graduate medical education matches.

Methods

A 28-question survey was developed utilizing Qualtrics. An anonymous link was sent to all pediatric anesthesiology program directors for distribution of the survey link to all recently matched applicants. Incoming fellows who were accepted outside of the match process were also invited to respond.

Results

50 respondents completed the survey, for a response rate of 30% based on the 167 matched fellowship positions nationwide (50/167). A majority of the respondents reported they felt virtual interviews allowed them to learn the following things equally as well compared with a traditional interview about fellowship programs: salary and benefits, available academic opportunities, available clinical opportunities, clinical schedule of the fellowship, mentorship opportunities, clinical experience and training of the fellowship, and expected work-life balance during fellowship. Respondents report that the most important factors in making their rank list were perceived goodness of fit, desired geographic location, and perception of program leadership. Additionally, respondents ranked the types of information and interactions that they found most helpful to make decisions. All respondents reported the benefit of cost savings compared to a traditional application cycle, with the most commonly reported estimated savings being $3,000-$5,000 per respondent.

Conclusions

These results allow recommendations for “best practices” for virtual interviews to include programs providing an electronic packet of information prior to the interview day, providing dedicated time for applicants to interact with current fellows, providing applicants an understanding of the city/region of the location of the program, and offering a completely optional post-interview visit, when possible. Based on the results of this survey, we recommend that programs continue to offer virtual interviews as a penalty-free option for applicants, even when in-person interviews may be feasible.

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