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How to Assess Resident Applicants' Core Competencies

Julie McCoy, for HealthLeaders Media, January 7, 2011

From the day the Electronic Residency Application System (ERAS) opens, keeping up with applications is an overwhelming task for program coordinators.

“You come in one day and there are another 100 applications to download,” says Jill Philp, radiology residency training coordinator at University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor. 

It’s often up to program coordinators to prescreen ERAS applications, but filtering out the best candidates a huge undertaking. With limited interview spots available, efficiently reviewing applications is critical to ensuring that your program extends invitations for interviews to the most desirable candidates.  

Although coordinators typically have a list of criteria to look for on each application, reviewing ERAS applications is like comparing apples to oranges, says Lois Shuman, C-TAGME, radiology education coordinator at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis. This is because while the ERAS application is standardized, much of the information included in it is not. Inconsistencies include: 

  • Different grading methodologies depending on the medical school
  • Letters of recommendation that vary greatly in content and quality
  • Whether the medical schools offer membership to the Alpha Omega Alpha honor society

The United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) score is the one apples-to-apples comparison you can make, but it only gives you insight into a candidate’s medical knowledge, Shuman says, adding that you don’t get an idea of whether he or she is a good fit culturally. 

To get a better sense of the candidates, Shuman and Philp developed a framework for evaluating candidates’ ERAS applications using the ACGME’s six core competencies. 

“You have to use the competencies to evaluate the residents once they’re in your program, so it makes sense to select candidates based on those competencies, too,” Shuman says.

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