Vascular In-person for Students In the match Trial: An investigation of postinterview site visits to address the limitations of virtual interviews

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Journal of Vascular Surgery


PURPOSE: The graduate medical education community implemented virtual residency interviews in response to travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, and this approach has persisted. Although many residency applicants wish to visit in-person prospective training sites, such opportunities could bias programs toward those who are able to meet this financial burden, exacerbating equity concerns. One proposed solution is to offer applicants the opportunity to visit only after a program's rank list is "locked," avoiding favoritism to applicants who visit, but allowing applicants to experience some of the camaraderie, geography, and local effects of an in-person visit. As debate about the optimal format of residency interviews continues, it is important to investigate whether in-person program visits, completed after program rank list certification, provide meaningful benefits to applicants in the residency match process. METHODS: All vascular programs entering the 2023 integrated vascular surgery residency match were invited to participate. Programs agreed to certify their National Resident Matching Program rank lists by February 1, 2023. Applicants then had the opportunity to visit the programs at which they interviewed. The particulars of the visit were determined by the individual programs. Applicants completed their standard rank list and locked on the standard date: March 1, 2023. Applicants then completed a survey regarding the impact of the visits on their rank order list decision-making. Program directors (PDs) completed a survey regarding their experiences as well. Data were collected using REDCap. RESULTS: Twenty-one of the 74 (28%) programs participated. Nineteen PDs completed the postinterview site visit survey (response rate 90%). Applicants interviewing at the participating programs (n = 112) were informed of the study, offered the opportunity to attend postinterview site visits, and received the survey. Forty-seven applicants responded (response rate 42%). Eighty-six percent of applicants stated that the visit impacted their rank list. Most important factors were esprit de corps of the program (86%), the faculty/trainees/staff (81%), and the physical setting (62%). Seventy-one percent of those participating spent ≤ $800 on their visit. Eighty-one percent were satisfied with the process. Twenty-one percent of PDs would have changed their rank list if they could have based on the applicants' in-person visit. Sixty-three percent of the visit sessions cost the programs ≤ $500, and 63% were satisfied with the process. CONCLUSIONS: This study is the first to document the impact of in-person site visits by applicants on a graduate medical education match process in one specialty. Our results suggest that this process provides meaningful data to applicants that helped them with their decision-making evidenced by most altering their rank lists, while avoiding some of the critical equity issues that accompany traditional in-person interviews. This may provide a model for future interview processes for residency programs.

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