Saturday, April 10, 2010

Freaking out about away rotations

Hi, I’m MomTFH (from Mom’s Tinfoil Hat and Foodie Loves Picky). I have written three guest posts here at Mothers in Medicine, and participated in the last topic week, but this is my first post as a (squeal!) contributor. I love this site and its contributors, and I am so honored that they want me as a mom medical student voice.

I am a medical student at an osteopathic medical school in Florida, and a mom of two boys, currently 11 and 5 1/2. I am just about to finish a year long pre-doctoral research fellowship. I will resume my medical education as a third year student starting clinical rotations in July.

I was planning on writing a touching, self-actualizing first post, based on the recent birth of my cousin Susan, weaving in reflections on the birth of my first child, my journey to obstetrics, and the joy of observing a practitioner who is an incredible example of how to combine evidence based medicine with woman centered obstetrics. That post still may come.

But, for right now, I’m freaking out about away rotations.

The fourth year of medical students consists mostly of elective rotations. Those rotations usually involve “audition rotations” in your specialty(ies) of choice at your location(s) of choice. These are usually month long commitments, in which you are supposed to work your little tail off, so this potential residency site wants you to be part of their incoming team of residents.

There is only one residency site in my immediate vicinity. All of the other sites of interest to me are at least a half day drive, if not a several hour flight. If I could combine this into a summer vacation for my family, we would possibly be able to work something out with them coming with me to one or more of these locations. But, these elective rotations usually happen in the fall and winter, when the kids, S (11) and Z (5) and my husband, Coach Stu, are in school. There are months of elective rotations for most of the year, but interviews occur in November, December and January, so your audition interviews should occur just prior to or during those months. Let's not even get into the fact that a lot of huge, family oriented holidays occur during October, November and December.

How can I just disappear for several months? Many programs end up selecting many residents who don’t do an elective rotation at their site. But, most sites do choose many new residents who did a rotation there. I have no affiliation or connection with many of these sites, otherwise. I am a pretty good student with pretty good test scores, but I am also an osteopathic student competing to get into an MD system. Not to mention I am going to be forty my first year of residency, and have two kids and a husband in tow. I need any edge I can get in applying.

Is there any way I can put my kids, husband and pets in deep freeze hibernation (Alien style) for a year? I can fly around, do away rotations, fly to interviews in several cities, and not worry about abandoning my family. Then, I’ll get my match results, hopefully in some fabulous, progressive, friendly city with seasons at a wonderful, academics and research-heavy focused residency program with night float, while still being family friendly, in a place I happen to know some moms already (hey, I can dream, can’t I?). Then, I can thaw them out, and we can all move there together.



  1. I felt a lot of pressure to do away rotations during medical school. But similar to you, I had two kids at home, as well as a working spouse. So I made the decision not to.

    Yes, it's true that programs occasionally choose individuals that rotate through, but that's only if you truly are amazing (not to think that you wouldn't be). Only do it if it's a program you are sure you want to go to, otherwise, save the money, time, and stress.

  2. My husband and I were long distance (like a 3/12 plane ride) during med school and I chose to forgo away rotations in favor of time spent with him during 4th year. In the end, unless you know for sure you want to go to a specific program I don't think there is a huge benefit. For me it was also valuable to focus on my relationships during the relative quiet of 4th year before diving into residency.

    - peds intern

  3. I never rotated at the program I finally ended up in. (DO student in MD program now) I think that if you are looking at competitive residencies/locations it would serve you better to rotate there to "show them what you can do" but if you are looking into something with fewer applicants or a more remote location you could probably get away with doing just an interview. I did one away rotation and it was kind of nice to be away for four weeks seeing a new city and some new experiences. Although I hated the rotation it was an experience. Ultimately I think doing one in your first choice would be beneficial but you could get away with not doing it.

    - Another peds intern (mom of 1 year old!)

  4. Ooh I hear you! I am finished up my second year after taking a year doing research when my son was born last year. I have two older kids as well, so three total.

    At my school our campus is split. So I have to spend 15 weeks during third year at the other campus which is an 8 hour drive away. :( I'm not sure how I am going to get through this but I know moms in classes ahead of me did this and they all survived.

    And then there is the away rotation thing. There is one program that I very much want to attend as it is a great program and I would have incredible family support if I ended up living in that area. Unfortunately it is very competitive so I would like to do an away there so they know who I am. I am not sure if I can leave my family for another 4 weeks, though.

    All that to say - I understand!! I wish medical education and training were a little bit more family friendly.

  5. My heart goes out to your struggle - I was in your shoes a few years ago, and only decided going allopathic so I wouldn't have the travel associated with 3rd year rotations in the osteopathic world. I keep telling myself that 2 rotations away during 4th year would open doors that would let me be closer to family - so 8 weeks is a small sacrifice for the opportunity to try to be closer to family - something that my children would benefit from immensely. But it is an individual choice at the end of the day, there is no right answer - only what is right for you! I wish you the best of luck!

  6. Thanks so much to everyone who has shared her story!

    I will keep you up to date as I fret about this and make decisions.

  7. I would actually argue that interview time is really on the late side of when you should do an audition rotation. The benefit of doing an early away is that if you do well enough, you can get a LOR from the away program, and it looks awesome that someone at another institution likes you well enough to write you a letter. If you wait until September/October, your chances of getting a letter and getting it on time are much lower.

    So if you're set on doing an away, it's totally fine to do it in July or August so the kids can come. I did my sub-i's (not aways, because I opted not to do them) in July and August, got letters from both, and it worked out really great for me. That said, as others have said and I agree with, aways are absolutely NOT a necessity. They're nice if it's not a huge inconvenience for your family, but not needed. I didn't do any and matched at my number one :) Good luck!

  8. First of all, EXCELLENT post. Now, I have to disagree with OUmedbride. As someone who actually sat on the panel that chose incoming residents at an allopathic institution (albeit famkily med, but still...), I say timing your rotations in the fall is ideal. They see you when they are starting to envision their next year's class, and the new residents are sort of "tucked in" (July and August are tough for residency attendings - they are trying to figure out which of their incoming class can and can't cut it).

    So I say pick your two top choices, go there in the fall, and talk to your kids EVERY DAY via Skype. Your kids will see you and hear you and it's really helpful for a family when a parent is on the road. My husband travels and we use it all the time.


    You make us osteopathic doctor mamas proud!

  9. Thanks for the compliments and the advice.

  10. My best friend in residency was a D.O. She was a lot smarter than many of my M.D. co-horts!

    I did away rotations in the fall, but hadn't yet had my kids. Their dad was in residency, so being apart was the norm, and it didn't really affect us too much.

    I didn't do away rotations in residency because I had two children at the time, and was way to stressed about leaving them. I think your situation is much better with older kids, and worry that my training suffered a little, but I still managed pretty well doing lots of research and presenting at national meetings yearly.

    Welcome again! I really enjoyed reading this - you are hilarious. I empathize with doing the deep-freeze - kids are never convenient, but their presence makes us better students/doctors/people in life - so it is certainly a trade-off that we win, 100% of the time. Good luck with your decision.

  11. I had 2 colleagues in my residency class who did sub-is at a prestiguous medical center, and didn't get in. They were super smart and great to be around, but it's not a shoe-in just because you do a rotation at the place you want to go.

  12. I have heard more often than not from attendings @UNC where OB is a great and competitive program that they have seen AIs hurt more people than they have seen help. So unless you are so much more amazing in person than in paper, I would say, forgo the away AI for the opportunity to spend time with family. I also have two kids in medical school (7 and 2) and a husband. Also, I am interested in OB. Many of the larger programs in OB will be more interested and impressed by the research I bet.

  13. I see that this thread is rather old but I had to chime in. I am a 3rd yr DO student and already made up my mind not to do away rotations. There is no way I will leave them and go even for a few months. I don't have stellar scores but I always passed my classes. If I have to reapply and lose a year so be it. I am not going anywhere. In the hospital where I am currently rotatng, they love me. That will be my back up if I do not get in anywhere else in the whole country.


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