United States clinical experience (USCE) plays a key role in the IMG’s road to residency. Clinical experience may help you:
- ask for and secure letters of recommendation, which are critical for most IMGs
- network and make a variety of connections
- learn more about technology and general U.S. culture
Just as important, residency program directors are looking for IMGs who have a grasp of the U.S. health care environment and the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education’s core competencies of residency programs here in the United States.
How does an IMG find U.S. clinical experience?
As an IMG, it may sometimes feel like you’re between a rock and a hard place. You know you need U.S. clinical experience, but those positions can be hard to find or get into. Especially since there’s no formalized system to apply for non-rotation clinical experiences. But with persistence and ingenuity, there are several ways you can find opportunities. Let’s take a look at three of them.
1. Use trusted online resources to find clinical experience
A worthwhile online resource is the website sponsored by the Association of American Medical Colleges: Extramural Electives Compendium. This free database lets you search by institution or geographic location and offers useful information about medical school campuses, application procedures, elective time, and fee structures.
Before you start your quest, it’s best to ask yourself a few questions to help narrow and expedite your search: What specialty do you want to apply for? Is it at an institution where you want to match? How long do you want to take part in this experience?
2. Go the direct route with direct placement clinics
Knowing that it’s becoming harder for IMGs to find avenues for hands-on USCE, there are some clinics that offer clinical experience programs that you will pay to participate in. It’s a way for you to work in an outpatient office and gain hands-on experience interviewing patients, using the electronic medical record, attending lectures, learning how to do vitals, and more. A major benefit is that if you perform well, you’ll get a letter of recommendation after completing your rotation.
Because these direct placement clinics operate independently, do your homework and make sure they’re certified by the American Medical Association, among other qualifications.
Leaving no stone unturned means contacting friends and peers (IMG and otherwise) who’ve already done their rotations and asking them what you can do to get yours. You could find yourself being introduced through a connection to a university that will accept you for clinical experience, even if it typically doesn’t do that. Tapping into any and all of your connections can make such things possible.
Once you’ve established yourself at an institution, continue to approach different physicians within the same university network to get even more clinical experience. It takes a bit of boldness and a thick skin, but aren’t your residency dreams worth it?