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Does It Look Bad To Do Most Of Your Electives In One Specialty?

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Quick question for a thought I've been having lately. I am very interested in doing psychiatry for residency. Pre carms I have 8 weeks of psychiatry and 2 weeks of family. I know for other programs it looks like I want psych, which is fine as it is my number 1 choice by and far. However, do psych programs look down on having too many electives in their specialty? Does it make me look to keen and too set in stone? Thinking about this too much :P ?

 

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Hey Jeanguy, I really don`t think that having 8 weeks of psychiatry will have a negative impact on your application. It will make you look motivated for psych (it is your first discipline if I understood correctly). Since you only have 10 weeks pre-carms, I think that focusing 8 weeks on psy electives make you a more determined candidate.

Quick question for a thought I've been having lately. I am very interested in doing psychiatry for residency. Pre carms I have 8 weeks of psychiatry and 2 weeks of family. I know for other programs it looks like I want psych, which is fine as it is my number 1 choice by and far. However, do psych programs look down on having too many electives in their specialty? Does it make me look to keen and too set in stone? Thinking about this too much :P ?

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I agonized over this.  We had 16 weeks, of which 12 were pre-CaRMS and 12 could be done in a single discipline.  I did 12 solid weeks of psych and I was never asked to justify it or had anybody look askance at it during interviews.  I don't think anybody thought anything of it.  (and it was the best 12 weeks of my medical education to date :D )

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Isn't it supposed to be a good thing to maximize elective time in one's specialty of choice ? 

 

OP makes it look like it is a bad thing ?

 

If you're considering a competitive field, it's wise to have back-up options and thus distribute electives accordingly. Doing all your electives in one thing in a competitive match is the all-eggs-in-one-basket stock strategy. Could go either way. I did 4 weeks of plastics electives. Rest were in other surgical and internal med. 

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If you're considering a competitive field, it's wise to have back-up options and thus distribute electives accordingly. Doing all your electives in one thing in a competitive match is the all-eggs-in-one-basket stock strategy. Could go either way. I did 4 weeks of plastics electives. Rest were in other surgical and internal med. 

Interesting...I thought that for something as competitive as plastics, you were expected to do most of ur electives  in it. 4 weeks seems a bit on the low side compared to what I've heard other people do. Of course, I can see the rationale for wanting backups when applying to such a competitive specialty, I was under the impression that 6-8 weeks of electives in plastics was sort of standard. 

 

thoughts? 

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I took an all-my-eggs-in-one-basket approach. I did 14 wks of electives in general surgery and gen surg subspecialties and 6 weeks of other electives (ICU/GI). I was really nervous about splitting myself between 2 specialties. I thought that would look really obvious on an application and would make me a less competitive applicant for both specialties. I think I ended up being pretty competitive. Gen surg is different from plastics though, there are way more spots but also way more applicants. 

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I did all my elective time, except 2 weeks, in my specialty (competitive surgical specialty). I did 2 weeks in a block of a related specialty.

 

It's hard for competitive specialties. Maximizing electives in your specialty of choice will maximize your match chances (in my program we haven't taken someone who hasn't done an elective with us in years). But taking that approach minimizes your chances of getting a back up if you don't match. There is no right answer. It comes down to each persons individual risk tolerance. 

 

On a side note: I backed up with another less competitive surgical specialty at my home school that I knew well and had a good relationship with. They had encouraged me to do their specialty throughout med school. I talked to the PD and flat out told him I wanted to back up with them since my specialty of choice was competitive and there was a chance I wouldn't match. I basically said I still really enjoyed his specialty and would enjoy it as a career alternative. I didn't want to get stuck in something non surgical. He was completely ok with it and even said not to worry about matching, because if I didn't get my specialty of choice they would make sure I was with them. I eventually found out through one of the residents I was first on their rank list so that if I didn't match to my choice, I would be with them for sure. 

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I did all my elective time, except 2 weeks, in my specialty (competitive surgical specialty). I did 2 weeks in a block of a related specialty.

 

It's hard for competitive specialties. Maximizing electives in your specialty of choice will maximize your match chances (in my program we haven't taken someone who hasn't done an elective with us in years). But taking that approach minimizes your chances of getting a back up if you don't match. There is no right answer. It comes down to each persons individual risk tolerance. 

 

On a side note: I backed up with another less competitive surgical specialty at my home school that I knew well and had a good relationship with. They had encouraged me to do their specialty throughout med school. I talked to the PD and flat out told him I wanted to back up with them since my specialty of choice was competitive and there was a chance I wouldn't match. I basically said I still really enjoyed his specialty and would enjoy it as a career alternative. I didn't want to get stuck in something non surgical. He was completely ok with it and even said not to worry about matching, because if I didn't get my specialty of choice they would make sure I was with them. I eventually found out through one of the residents I was first on their rank list so that if I didn't match to my choice, I would be with them for sure. 

Very interesting...how did you develop that relationship with them? It must have been really awesome to have that reassurance. 

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I took an all-my-eggs-in-one-basket approach. I did 14 wks of electives in general surgery and gen surg subspecialties and 6 weeks of other electives (ICU/GI). I was really nervous about splitting myself between 2 specialties. I thought that would look really obvious on an application and would make me a less competitive applicant for both specialties. I think I ended up being pretty competitive. Gen surg is different from plastics though, there are way more spots but also way more applicants. 

 

How long would usually spend in an elective in a specific program? Did you tend to do short (2 weeks) electives in different programs, or long (4 weeks) electives in fewer programs?

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How long would usually spend in an elective in a specific program? Did you tend to do short (2 weeks) electives in different programs, or long (4 weeks) electives in fewer programs?

At McGill you're limited to only 4 two week electives. We're fortunate in that we got a minimum of 20 weeks of electives. I maxed out on 2 week electives, although I did 2 of them at the same place back-to-back since they wouldn't give me a longer one. The rest were all 4 weeks. I found that longer electives felt better. 3 weeks would likely be the optimal length. the first couple of days are spent just trying to find your way around, learning how to use different computer software and taking care of paper-work. The end of the first week and second week is where you start to get comfortable. If you hang around for a third week I find that's where you start to excel and a fourth week is nice but that's where you run the risk of seeming cocky and making stupid mistakes. I found that with 2 week electives you have less grace period to allow yourself to settle in to a new environment - you really need to hit the ground running to impress in such a short period of time. 

 

In total I did electives at 4 schools outside of my home school and ended up matching somewhere i hadn't bothered to show my face. CaRMS is mysterious like that. The CaRMS tour also showed me that there were programs I hadn't really considered that seemed really awesome. 

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It's probably fine, but some program directors have told our class it can be benifical to do a related field to show that you've been exposed to other things and are set on your course... not sure if worthwile advice though.

Maybe one brief exploration elective, depending on how many weeks of pre-carms electives you get. those are really valuable electives for exploring programs of interest. if you know there's something you want to do, and certain locations that you think you're interested in, i wouldn't waste the time doing something just to prove that you've been exposed to other things. when you fill in your carms app, you can put in future electives that you've booked. maybe book one of these exposure electives after the submission deadline. that way they'll see that you are looking to explore and you will likely (or not so likely depending on your elective schedule) have completed this elective by the time the tour starts. 

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I matched to my first choice for psych and got interviews everywhere I applied for psych, internal, and family... I had a very hard time choosing... Heck I'm still having a hard time and I am starting residency this week. My electives were basically mostly family and internal and not psych because I thought I would end up doing internal or family. I had a couple weeks of psych before carms and 4 weeks after carms. I don't think it was viewed negatively. That being said I felt like all the other students at the psych interviews were more confident than me and had more experience so I guess that may have messed with me a bit because there is a lot of time to chat with ppl. Only one school asked anything about it and they seemed to like that I was a convert and had done well in other areas. Otherwise every school asks why you want to do that specialty there so I used that as an opportunity to talk about how I found the light... Ahem...I mean how I found psych :) best of luck.

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I was under the impression that you want ~6 weeks in your desired field. I'm a little confused as to why people would want upwards of 12+ weeks in a field unless those are split among various sub-disciplines. You have your whole life to practice the field that you match to, but not a lot of time to explore other things that can add nuance to your practice.

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I don't think a two week elective would have added much nuance.  Psychiatry makes me so happy and spending 12 weeks doing nothing else was a dream and a great way to de-stress after clerkship.

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I was under the impression that you want ~6 weeks in your desired field. I'm a little confused as to why people would want upwards of 12+ weeks in a field unless those are split among various sub-disciplines. You have your whole life to practice the field that you match to, but not a lot of time to explore other things that can add nuance to your practice.

The problem is in competitive specialties, face time matters. Electives aren't about exploring other fields, they are essentially 2 week interviews. Many competitive programs won't rank someone (or won't rank them high) if they haven't worked with them. So every elective is another potential program to which you could match.

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I don't think a two week elective would have added much nuance.  Psychiatry makes me so happy and spending 12 weeks doing nothing else was a dream and a great way to de-stress after clerkship.

 

And people wonder why I don't go on vacation.

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Do your exploration electives after carms. Nlengr makes a great point about electives being extended interviews and not primarily learning experiences. For path just do one elective where you want to go and do the rest in Cancun somehow

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Does that mean it is advantageous to do all electives in one specialty?

Depends.

 

If its something competitive than doing all your electives in that specialty exposes you to the highest number of programs and would in theory probably increase your matching chances. However, that means you are reducing your chances of matching to a back up specialty (by not doing any electives in it). It's a question of balancing risk. Everyone has to make a decision about how much risk they are willing to take.

 

If you aren't going for something competitive it probably wouldn't matter.

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Depends.

 

If its something competitive than doing all your electives in that specialty exposes you to the highest number of programs and would in theory probably increase your matching chances. However, that means you are reducing your chances of matching to a back up specialty (by not doing any electives in it). It's a question of balancing risk. Everyone has to make a decision about how much risk they are willing to take.

 

If you aren't going for something competitive it probably wouldn't matter.

Some schools (mine at least) require you do do at least one elective in a different specialty.

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