Recruiting Medical Students to your EM Residency: Easy as PIE

Author: Dylan Arnold , DO (Assistant Program Director, Naval Medical Center San Diego)

Every class of EM residents has those individuals who make you proud to be an educator. They seem to have instinctual clinical gestalt. Deep down you know they will become a better physician than you. Now what if you could recruit an entire class of interns like them. Your job would become less time consuming and more rewarding. Now how can a program recruit this dream class?

Many factors are not in your control. So don’t make excuses for your location, medical facility, and patient population. Making a medical student’s experience in the ED better is as easy as PIE:


The worst thing about being a student was how worthless you felt. Do you remember being 100% ambition and 0% skill? Employing the medical student is a difficult task. Of course, they can spend 45 minutes doing an uncomplicated laceration repair. But look for anything you should be doing for your patients but don’t have the time to do. We often neglect updating patients, answering their questions, or letting them vent. Medical students are happy to assist in anything that requires extra hands. Chest compressions, patient restraint, splint molding, wound dressing are all activities where students can contribute and should not be seen as “scut” work. They will contribute to patient care and satisfaction while freeing your time.



Start by making sure medical students get all the emails on residency events. Encourage your residents to invite the students to other social outings. Dedicating a recruitment or wellness resident with this responsibility is an easy solution. At medical student orientation, suggest students exchange contact information. Lonesome memories from an away rotation will negatively affect a rank list.



Establishing this learning climate is the hardest but most important. As medical students, we all loved the ED. The diversity of patients, pathology and procedures made every encounter a surprise. Medical students want to see residents and faculty that share this curiosity. This can be hard as the years dull your excitement, so don’t let them miss the one interesting case during your shift. And last, share your positive and negative emotions with them. They want to know what this job has in store.

Notice that none of these strategies involved bedside teaching, research, hospital staffing or didactics. Medical students will remember how a rotation left them feeling. Don’t let them be the bored, underfoot outsider.

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