If you are one of the thousands of residency applicants who didn’t match to a U.S. medical residency – it can feel like the end of the world. You’ve already sacrificed so much to make your dream of becoming a physician true; time, money, and endless dedication. But this has also demonstrated your resiliency, so frame this is as another opportunity for growth.

So how do you make the most of the time you now have?

Obtain a hands-on externship in a hospital setting

A hands-on externship is a short-term, typically unpaid educational experience that takes place on-site at a medical facility. The best type of externship is an insured, hands-on externship in an ACGME Accredited Teaching hospital, which are often the most difficult to access. Externs have the opportunity to work under seasoned professionals. These opportunities allow you to build skills and demonstrate knowledge in a real-world setting. The benefits are invaluable:

Real World Experience – Remember all those hours learning about career choice, practicing in labs, and learning about medicine? This is your chance to actually apply that knowledge. You’ll have the opportunity to work with patients in a hospital setting. You’ll also have the chance to learn how to navigate working with a program director and a team of colleagues. The best way to learn is to practice, and these externships give you just that chance.

Experience the Workplace – Some externships place you in a physician’s office, specialty office, or an outpatient center. With teaching hospital-based externships, you have the chance to experience a healthcare facility that has it all. With hospital-based externships, you already have your foot in the door, you just need to prove your worth as a resident, and as someone who is willing to learn.

Competence in Skills – Hospital-based externships allow you to put those skills to a real-life test. Building on your technical and communication skills is necessary to perform in the real-world. Being supervised by seasoned academic medical professionals will give you the peace of mind that you’re in good hands and learning from the best. Which leads us to the next benefit.

Gain knowledge from experts in the field – What better way to learn about how a functioning, real-life healthcare facility works than under a seasoned professional? These professors will model to you how they have become successful. This is the golden opportunity to learn from everyone around you. Residents Medical can assist you in securing a teaching hospital-based hands-on externship.

Prepare for virtual interviews

COVID-19 has reshaped the world, your world included. From USMLE testing center closures, to shortened clerkships, the medical education sector is learning how to cope during this time. Learning how to navigate virtual interviews is key, as the majority of residency programs will be using this method. This can be seen as a positive thing, as telemedicine is gaining more traction.

See our article on Preparing for Virtual Interviews

Pass Step 3

This extra gap year should be spent on acing Step 3. While many residencies will accept you with a Step 2, others require Step 3 (just pass) to go into the ranks of senior-level resident fellow.