Foregoing an Observership in Favor of a Clinical Externship

As a foreign medical student, an observership in the United States might sound like a great idea. After all, an observational experience in a clinical setting might have been one of the things that initially inspired you to pursue a career in medicine. When you were in secondary school or completing your undergraduate studies, just spending a short period shadowing a physician may have really made a difference when determining your decision to pursue a medical course of study. However, the situation is much different after you’ve completed medical school. As a foreign medical graduate, you have dedicated years of your life to the study of medicine in the classroom and the clinic, so it is far less likely that you will truly gain from standing by and watching other physicians work. Therefore, if you’re looking for a US experience before applying to a US medical residency program, the best approach is to forego an observership in favor of a clinical externship. Read on for more information about why.


The Differences between an Observership and a Clinical Externship


The fundamental problem with observerships is that they are just what they sound like: the chance to observe another physician go about their daily routine. But as a foreign medical graduate, you’ve probably already spent a lot of time doing just that over the course of your education—and a few more months of doing so before you apply for a US medical residency program probably won’t make a big difference. Plus, if you try to write about an observership on your personal statement when you apply, it will be harder for you to argue that the familiar experience was truly meaningful–and the program official who is evaluating your application will be able to tell.


Moreover, the observership itself can be both frustrating and disappointing for a well-trained physician like yourself. Once you’ve been classified as an observer in a clinical setting–not as a true participant–it’s easy to get sidelined by other healthcare professionals. If observership is in a high-pressure specialty area like surgery or cardiology, it’s easy to get pushed aside by an attending physician who is (rightly) more concerned about the patient’s health than about making sure you have a good view of the procedure they are performing. As a result, there’s a high risk that you’ll end up missing out on any truly meaningful learning experience you might have had, since you’ll just feel obliged to get out of the way and let the attending physician and the other healthcare professionals do their jobs.


In contrast, if you enroll in a clinical externship program, you’ll always be in on the action. A clinical externship is a truly hands-on experience, which means that you’ll have real responsibilities from Day 1. Depending on the specialty area in which you are working, some of the tasks your attending physician may assign you include:

  • Presenting patients
  • Analyzing patient histories
  • Performing physical examinations
  • Assisting with complex procedures

Put simply, a clinical externship will truly give you a taste for what you would be doing if you chose to pursue a residency in the specialty area of the attending physician with whom you are working. Later in the medical residency application process, you will be able to draw on the experience when you write your personal statement, talk about your career goals during your interviews, and decide which programs from which specialty areas you want to include on your ROL.


Establishing a Strong Relationship with the Attending Physician


Over the course of your clinical externship, your attending physician will come to rely on you to complete the tasks discussed in the previous section. Not only can this increase your knowledge of the specialty and help you cement your decision to pursue a US medical residency program in the area, but it can also enable you to develop a strong professional relationship with your attending physician. They may be able to act as a mentor as you go through the US medical residency application and matching process, and they may agree to write you a strong letter of recommendation when you decide to apply. Since many US medical residency programs require or prefer foreign medical graduates to submit at least one letter of recommendation from a US physician, this relationship can play a major role in whether or not you get matched to the program of your choice.


When you’re just doing an observership–not a clinical externship–you won’t be working quite as closely with the attending physician, so there will be less of an opportunity for true mentorship. Also, because you were only observing clinical procedures (rather than directly participating in them), the attending physician won’t be able to speak to your technical abilities when they write you a letter of recommendation. That will make for a weaker reference that will be less convincing for the program officials who read it.


A Clinical Externship Through FMG Portal

FMG Portal recognizes the value of hands-on experience for aspiring US medical residents, so we don’t offer observerships–only hands-on clinical externships for foreign medical graduates and student electives for foreign medical students. Contact us today to learn more about our high-quality programs!

Making a Good Impression Online: Tips for Foreign Medical Graduates

As a foreign medical graduate applying for US medical residency programs, there are lots of factors that play into the determination of whether or not you end up matched. Obviously, your primary application materials–like your personal statement and letters of recommendation–play a huge role, as do your scores on the USMLE tests, especially Step 1 and Step 2. However, there are also less formal aspects of your candidacy that can play into the matching process, including your online presence.


These days, it’s simply standard practice for admissions officials at US medical residency programs to google a candidate before seeking a match. With so much information available online, most admissions admissions officials consider it wasteful–or even irresponsible–not to take a quick look at a candidate’s online presence. Therefore, as you prepare to apply for US medical residency programs, you should start thinking about how you appear on your social media and professional networking accounts. Read on for some tips that can help you make a good impression when admissions officials take a look at the available online information about you.


Embracing a Professional Social Media Presence


Deciding to apply for a US medical residency program doesn’t mean you have to delete all of your social media profiles and try to disappear completely from the internet. In fact, depending on your age and the country where you earned your medical degree, it might be surprising to program officials if they see that you don’t have an account on Facebook, Instagram, or another popular platform. Applying for a US medical residency just gives you the chance to review your accounts and make sure that you are presenting a professional social media presence. Here are the main things you should do:


  • Make your social media profiles private. One of the easiest ways to maintain the professionalism of your online presence is to set all of your social media accounts to “private.” For most social media platforms, it’s easy access your profile settings and make sure that only your friends can see your personal information and posts. Medical residency program officials will recognize this as a sign that you–like so many people around the world–enjoy the opportunity to connect with others on social media, but you’re responsible enough to limit your interactions to those with people you know.
  • Choose an appropriate public profile picture. On many social media websites, anyone can see your profile picture, even before you have approved them to view your full profile. Therefore, you may want to choose a profile picture that you would not mind a program official looking at. You do not need to go out and have a professional photo taken, but it is ideal to choose a photo that generally reflects well upon you–portraying you as the serious, thoughtful, motivated, passionate, hardworking person you are. Whether it’s a photo of you from in full robes at your medical school graduation or a candid shot of you hiking with your family in a scenic area, you want to choose profile photos that you think would be perceived positively by almost anyone.
  • Beef up your LinkedIn account. If you have an account on LinkedIn (or another popular professional networking website), make sure that the information on the account is accurate and up-to-date. If you don’t regularly use the account, there’s no need to spend hours trying to improve it. You just want to make sure that the information the account is consistent with the things you list on your CV and talk about in your personal statement. If you are an active user with an extensive amount of content on your account, you may want to set aside time to go through your whole profile and in order to check for discrepancies.  


Erasing Potential Red Flags


Even if your social media accounts are set to private, it’s still a good idea to get rid of any posts or photos that could raise red flags for program officials, since you never know when they might fall into the wrong hands. Take the time to untag yourself in photos from the craziest parties you attended, or get rid of the albums altogether. You may also want to delete any potentially offensive or inflammatory statements you might have made on Twitter or other platforms. There’s nothing wrong with putting up posts in support of political or social causes–in fact, truly passionate advocacy may be viewed favorably by program officials–but it’s usually best to get rid of anything that is downright rude, mean-spirited, or include any profanity. Also, if you have out-of-date accounts on platforms that you don’t use anymore, now is a great time to get rid of them.

The bottom line is, it’s not likely that your online profile will make or break your US medical residency application, but it’s never a bad idea to take every opportunity you can to make a good impression. For more tips on how you can present yourself as an excellent foreign medical residency candidate, contact FMG Portal today!