By: Darwin Wan, MS2
Fourth year is a tumultuous time for medical students. Although the toll of clerkships starts to grind down, students now find themselves faced with the difficult dilemma of choosing among dozens, sometimes hundreds of residency programs for further training.
For students heading to a Family Practice residency program, at least there is now an iPhone app that can help them make this difficult decision. Created by the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Wisconsin Madison, Residency Rater [iTunes link] helps medical students organize their thoughts using a series of criteria and checklists with which they can score different family medicine programs.
By providing a neat and convenient way for users to score programs on multiple criteria, this free app stimulates graduating students to consider all aspects of the program before coming to a decision – an important consideration since the computerized residency match program does not allow students to change their minds once they have submitted their choices.
How the app works
The first step is to choose family medicine programs you are considering or have visited for interviews. While I didn’t check if every program is represented, there is a fairly long list here.￼
After you select the programs of interest, you can then rate each school on the areas of work setting, education setting, and other critera. Within each area are categories, and within each category are subcategories where you do you actual rating from 1 -5 (or n/a if you’re not interested in using that subcategory).
As you can see from the screenshots, the list of included subcategories is quite robust. If those are not enough, you may even add a custom category of your choosing, such as “authenticity of nearby Chinese food” . The program then averages the scores from each subcategory to provide a rating for the category. The app then averages the marks for each category to come up with a rating for the program as a whole, which are then displayed in the “my report” section, which is exportable.
Overall, this app is a handy tool for students to organize their many and mixed thoughts about their choice of residency. While family medicine programs are the only ones listed within the app (probably in an effort to promote the field), students interested in other fields could potentially use the app as long as they ignore some of the names ie. if I was interested in surgery at Case Western, Albert Einstein, and UW Madison, I could just select the programs you see above and just ignore the “Family Medicine” part of the program’s name. Ideally, I would like to see other specialties and programs included in the app, as well a way to adjust the importance of some categories, but they are fairly minor criticisms. This app’s main goal is to help organize your thoughts, expand your thinking, record impressions and consider points you may not have thought of otherwise, and in this respect, it succeeds unabatedly. The disclaimer sums it up perfectly by warning us that “You should NOT make a decision on a residency program based solely on this app or the ranking score it provides.”
- Stimulates user to think more broadly about each program
- Easy way to organize thoughts and record impressions
- Only covers family medicine programs in the United States (could add other specialties, programs or Canadian programs quite easily to make it a comprehensive residency app)
- Cannot adjust the relatively weight of each category (authenticity of Chinese food is a make-or-break deal)
Residency Rater is a neat little app for students to organize and expand their thoughts about family medicine residency programs. Do not hesitate to try it out if you are headed for Family Practice and the big decision is coming up in your near future.
Darwin Wan, B.Sc(Kin) is a second year medical student at the University of Alberta, and currently servies as the Information Technology Officer for the student body. Scores for programs in the above screenshots are for demonstration purposes only.