NewsPublicationsBanner

Career Center

A Step by Step Guide to Applying for a PM&R Residency

Applying for a residency can be a complicated process. Learn more about the four steps of applying to residency by clicking on the links below. Also make sure to check out the Medical School Roadmap to PM&R 4th year medical student section on information about details of the application itself (e.g. personal statement, letters of recommendation, USMLE Step 2 testing, and away rotations.

​___________________________________________________________________________________

Finding an ACGME-Accredited PM&R Residency Program

Ways to research both intern year (PGY1) and residency training programs include:

  • Visit the Residents section of the AAPM&R website and view a map of PM&R programs in the US and find out more information on PM&R residency training.
  • Use the American Medical Association Fellowship and Residency Electronic Interactive Database Access System (AMA-FREIDA). For more information, visit the AMA-FREIDA Web site.
  • Talk with current PM&R residents and attendings at your institution.

Selecting a Program for Application

Facts and Figures

  • 80 ACGME accredited programs across 28 states
  • 28 Categorical programs (4-year programs)

Seek advice about specific residency programs from a wide variety of sources including:

  • Attend the AAPM&R Annual Assembly’s Residency Fair as part of the Medical Student Program.
  • If you are at a medical school with no associated PM&R department or program, please contact the American Academy of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation (AAPM&R) which can help identify resources in your area.
  • Talk with your PM&R department chair, program director, or other PM&R faculty.
  • Ask PM&R residents and fellows at your institution.
  • Talk with your PM&R student interest group.
  • Check with your graduate medical education office and see if there are any alumni that matched into PM&R who might be able give you some insight.
  • Talk with your medical school advisor.
  • Check program websites directly- application requirements, curriculum, research opportunities, etc.

Consider the following factors when selecting programs:

  • Academic environment:
    • Education curriculum (Lecture schedule, protected study time, etc.)
    • Conference schedule
    • Research activity and opportunities
    • Facilities
      • Some programs are based at a free-standing rehabilitation hospital and others have an inpatient rehabilitation floor within an acute care hospital.
    • Availability of PM&R subspecialty expertise (i.e. Spinal Cord Injury, Traumatic Brain Injury, Pediatric Rehabilitation, Musculoskeletal, or Pain Specialists)
  • Area of interest:
    • Academic career: Consider university-based programs with a well-balanced faculty involved in full-time teaching and research commitments
    • Subspecialty interest: Seek out programs with a well developed division in a specific area, in order to facilitate introduction to research and more specialized practice (e.g., spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, pediatrics) and to determine which programs might offer a fellowship in that area after completion of residency
  • Accreditation: Check the ACGME Web site and research the accreditation status of residency programs. Residency programs are routinely reviewed and given accreditation status. It is good to know if the program you are applying to is accredited or on probation. After ACGME review, a program is issued accreditation for a certain number of years before requiring another site visit, with a 5-year accreditation being the highest. If a program is on probation, make sure to inquire why they were cited and what is being done to remediate any problems identified.
  • Benefits: Inquire about resident benefits at each program, including ability to attending conferences locally and nationally, reimbursement for conference participation, reimbursement for memberships to professional organizations such as the AAPM&R, book money, salary, and health benefits.
  • Location:
    • If you want to go into clinical practice, remember that many residents go into practice in the same geographical area where they trained. During the training process, you usually become familiar with employment opportunities and practicing physiatrists and groups in the area.
    • Residency can be a stressful time so proximity to family, friends, and your social support network should not be undervalued.
    • Consider your own hobbies and interests. Its important that you train in a location where you feel you will be happy to live for at least 3-4 years.
    • Cost-of-living varies by location. Consider your expenses, expected stipend, and the cost-of-living in each city to determine if it’s within your budget.
  • Size of residency program: The size of PM&R residency programs can range from 2–15 residents per class. Having a small versus large residency has both pluses and minuses and is program dependent. Reflect on your learning style and what would be the optimal environment for your education. Make sure to speak with current residents to determine if the program is a good fit for you.
  • Patient-to-resident ratio: Ask specifically about the patient-to-resident ratio on the inpatient service and the structure of the team. Some programs have senior residents that round on the inpatient service whereas, in other programs you may be interacting with the attending directly. You should also inquire about the average inpatient consults seen per month.
  • Selectivity/competitiveness of the program: Ask your medical school's PM&R department chair and other PM&R faculty for assistance in estimating both the selectivity of training programs and applicant competitiveness. You can also check out the NRMP Program Director Survey for specific information.
  • Quality of Resident Life: There are several factors that play into the quality of life of a resident. A good way to gauge quality of life is by talking with the current residents. Inquire about call schedules, camaraderie among residents, local recreational activities, etc.
  • Board Pass Rate and Post-Graduate Plans of Residents: Ask each residency its board pass rate for the last several years. Inquire about the post-graduate plans of the residents in the program. Did their graduates go into private practice or academic medicine? Did they pursue fellowship training? How successful have their residents been in obtaining a fellowship?

PGY1 Training

There are a number of residencies (i.e. radiation oncology, neurology, dermatology, etc.) that start residency after a year of preliminary training. There are some PM&R programs that include a PGY1 year and PGY2-4 years, which are called categorical positions. However, a majority of the PM&R residency programs offer only PGY2-4 or advanced positions. Therefore, you typically will have to apply for a separate preliminary year (i.e. internship) along with your PM&R residency program during the summer of your 4th year in medical school.

Internships can be done through Internal Medicine, Surgery, Family Medicine, Pediatrics, a rotating osteopathic (DO) or transitional year (MD).

If you are applying to:

  • A residency program that offers both categorical and advanced positions, it is the applicant's advantage to rank both positions and maximize their chance of matching.
  • Only advanced positions, you will need to apply and rank for a separate internship year along with your PM&R Residency.
  • Programs with a variety of categorical and advanced options, you still need to rank and apply for a separate internship in case you do not match for a categorical position.
  • Also consider ranking preliminary year positions only at the bottom of your rank order list in the event you do not match into a categorical or advanced position.

Osteopathic Medical Students and PM&R

There are a couple of issues that are unique to osteopathic medical students applying to the match.

  • ERAS
    • July 1 marks the date that medical students (allopathic and osteopathic) can start working on their ERAS Application. However, osteopathic applicants can begin submitting their ERAS applications to osteopathic (internship) programs only starting on July 1. Applicants applying to ACGME programs (internship or residency) can submit their application starting in September.
  • Internship
    • Osteopathic medical students are eligible to apply for all internships as listed above including an osteopathic rotating internship. Because the osteopathic match is one month earlier than the allopathic match, osteopathic medical students should be aware of a couple of things:​
    • If your plan is to match into a categorical PM&R position and you match for an osteopathic internship in February, you will not be eligible for that position during the allopathic match in March.
    • If you plan on completing an osteopathic internship and an allopathic PM&R (advanced) residency, you will find out where you match in February and then March (respectively).
    • If you are interviewing at both allopathic and osteopathic internships and you match into an osteopathic internship, you will no longer be eligible for any allopathic internships in March.
    • Similarly, if you match to an osteopathic residency you are not eligible for allopathic residency.
    • There are 5 PM&R DO residencies. Of these, Nassau University Medical Center and EW Sparrow Hospital are the only 2 dual-accredited programs meaning you can apply through the allopathic or osteopathic match.

If you have any other questions regarding osteopathic internships and the Match, please contact your academic advisor or the American Osteopathic Association.

Pediatric PM&R

There are currently two ways to enter into pediatric rehabilitation:

  • Medical students can apply for a combined pediatrics / PM&R residency program, which is a five-year program including a PGY1 year. Graduates are eligible to sit for pediatric, PM&R, and pediatric rehabilitation board certifications. There are only a few programs that provide this option (may change each year): Cincinnati Children’s/University of Cincinnati PM&R (1 spot each year), Jefferson/duPont Hospital for Children (1 spot each year), University of Colorado Denver (1 spot each year), and Detroit Medical Center/Wayne State University (1 spot each year)
  • Medical students can also complete PM&R residency and then apply for a pediatric rehabilitation fellowship. After completion of this two-year fellowship, graduates are eligible to sit for PM&R and pediatric rehabilitation board certification. Applicants typically apply for pediatric rehabilitation fellowships in the spring of their PGY-3 year.

Interviewing

Talk with each program to get an idea of scheduling. Most PM&R programs start interviewing in late October/November and as late as January/February.

You will be invited for interviews based on your timely and complete submitted credentials, personal statement, Dean's letter, and letters of recommendation. The interview day is the best opportunity to gather more information. Prepare for interviews by reading about the programs including their residency websites. You should try to prepare how you will answer expected questions such as why you are applying to their program, why you are entering the field of PM&R, what your career goals are, etc. It is also useful to prepare a few questions that you want to ask your interviewer, as they will ask and expect you to have questions. Interact with the current residents at each program as much as you can to get an idea of how they feel about the program and whether you feel you would fit well with the people at that program. Some programs offer a dinner or social event the night prior to the interview day. It is strongly encouraged to attend these if possible so that you can interact with the residents in an informal setting, ask informal questions, get a feel for the camaraderie and atmosphere of the program, and sense whether the residents like their program and are happy. Also note that programs often fill up their interview spots quickly. However, applicants usually cancel interviews for multiple reasons. If you are interested in a program and cannot schedule an interview, it is important to be proactive (but also caution that you do not want to come off as too aggressive to a program) and ensure they know you are interested in an interview if it were to become available.​

After interviews are complete, you must prepare and submit a ranking list of programs to the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) which is typically due in the middle to end of February.

Match Program: The PM&R Match

PM&R Programs utilize ERAS (Electronic Residency Application Service) for resident applications and the NRMP to match the residency positions. Essentially all allopathic and osteopathic PM&R and internship programs use ERAS for the application process. NRMP is the matching program where you finalize your program rank list. Contact ERAS and NRMPfor more information about the Match process and specific deadlines.

The Match process in PM&R is generally quite favorable. The percentage of US medical school seniors matching to programs has generally been 95-98% in the past 10 years.

Final Thoughts

Applying for residency is a very exciting time that requires a lot of planning and organization. These recommendations are an outline to help guide your decision in choosing a residency. Every person is different and we all have our priorities that play into our choices. The right program for you is usually the one that you feel the best fit with from your interview day. If you still have questions after your interviews, it can sometimes be helpful to take a second look at a program (or a couple programs). Most programs are more than willing to set this up if you contact the chief residents or program director.

Don't forget to use all the resources available through the AAPM&R to guide your application process. Contact chief residents and other residents through the AAPM&R PhyzForum, check out sample CVs on the resident resources website, map-out PM&R residencies in your desired areas, and much more.

Best of luck!

The 2015 Resident Physician Council Board