Audition Rotation: What are they? How do I do well?

By Sean Martin

One of the biggest differences between applying for osteopathic residencies compared to allopathic residencies is doing an audition rotation. I was recently on a rotation where the program director told me they had not ranked anyone who hadn’t rotated with them in ten years. Audition rotations allow a program to see if you fit into their system. They also allow you the chance to prove you know your stuff. But they can also sink you in a matter of hours. In the osteopathic world, audition rotations are a must, and the first half of your fourth year is going to be filled with high stress rotations.

This post is dedicated to how to schedule your rotations and how to succeed at them.

Once you know what specialty you want to pursue, you’ll need to start scheduling audition rotations. It’s never too early. To get started, visit the AOA Opportunities web page (see my last post, if that sounds foreign to you). Every program has a contact person listed for student education. This is the person you should get in touch with to inquire about the process you need to go through to schedule a rotation.

Unlike allopathic programs, very few osteopathic programs use VSAS for scheduling. That means you’re going to have to make a lot of phone calls and send a ton of emails, faxes, carrier pigeons – whatever it takes to get in touch with the scheduling person.

Here is a caveat: do not lose your cool. If you really want a residency, you have to be nice to every person in the hospital from the program director to the cleaning staff. Some programs field 200 applicants for 3 open spots. Program directors are actually looking for reasons to eliminate you, so don’t give them one by sending nasty emails. Schedule early; spots fill up fast.

Once you get your auditions set up and it is day one, how do you succeed?

You’ve got a fine line to walk. On one hand, you want to come across as interested and hardworking, but, at the same time, no one likes a super gunner.
Tip number one: never throw another student under the bus. The biggest reason to do an audition is to show that you fit into the team. When the team looks good, you look good. Answer your questions, see your patients, and finish your scut work. Don’t yell out answers or steal patients. That’s a great way to burn yourself.

Also keep in mind that the other students you are rotating with very well could end up in the same program as you, so play nice!

Second tip: read, read, read. Whether you are rounding on medicine or in the OR with surgery, know everything about your patients. Whether you get your info from a textbook, journal articles, or review books, read.

Lastly, respect the chain of command. I have personally seen more than one student nail their own coffin shut by going directly to a senior resident or attending and bypassing their intern. This again is part of being a team player. Know your role and respect the interns.

If this seems like common sense, you are in great shape already. Auditions are stressful. You are under a microscope for 30 days. At the same time, try to have some fun. This is the specialty you want to do for the rest of your life, and these are the people that may be your colleagues for the next three to five years.

Be yourself and remember that while you are trying to impress the program, you need to find a place that fits your needs and lifestyle as well. Many students forget that they have a say in the process. By reading and having just a little common sense, match day will work out just fine.


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