Away rotations are the most important part of you application year.  They are expensive, exhausting, and exhilarating.  Here are several reasons why every student interested in matching into orthopedics should try to schedule as many as possible.


1. Learn lots of ortho!

Some will debate the educational value of these rotations given their high cost but I am a staunch believer that you can learn a lot during your ortho away season.  During your away rotations, you’ll be immersed in orthopedics – formal didactics, grand rounds, rounding, clinic, OR.  For me, jumping into the fray is the quickest way to pick up new information.  You will be amazed at how quickly you will learn the lingo and keep looking for more.  During my fourth year is when I really knew that orthopedics was the right field for me.  When I first started rotating, all I wanted to do was read and spend time in the OR.  (Side note – one cannot live on ortho alone …)  Depending on where your rotations are, you’ll also get to see how differently orthopedics can be practiced in different regions and different types of practice settings.  Keep track of what aspects you really like and which aspects you really dislike.  Explore, enjoy.



2. Scope out the programs

Away rotations are also an invaluable way to get an intimate look at how these programs serve your needs. You will meet the people who could potentially be your coresidents and your mentors.  Consider the quote by Jim Rohn.  

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”


How do you get along with the residents?  Will they push you?  You’ll see the working environment you could be in.  How does the hospital treat the residents?  You’ll also see the environment surrounding the hospital.  How would you feel living in the area?  We’ll have a separate post on what to keep track of while you’re rotating and how to translate that into your final rank list.  Subscribe here to make sure you get each post.



3. Set yourself apart

According to ERAS data, in 2016, there were 323 students who applied to an average of 23.4 osteopathic orthopedic programs.   Each program reviewed on average 175 applications.  In the ACGME world, the numbers are even higher!  1324 applicants applied for orthopedics and the average program reviewed over 500 applications.  As you can probably imagine, it can be hard to set yourself apart from the many high achieving students vying for those limited spots.  From the program perspective, it can quite the challenge to decipher which students would be the best fit solely from what can be conveyed on a piece of paper.  What better way to see if you’re a good fit than to spend nearly every waking hour for a month with your potential training program?


AOA ortho applicants

Average applications per AOA program

ACGME ortho applicants

Average applications per ACGME program

It’s important to note here that the return on investment of an away rotation for matching are very different for those going through the AOA and those going through the ACGME match processes.  While rotating at ACGME programs may increase your odds of matching at that program, many osteopathic programs only interview candidates that have completed an away rotation at their program, making this a huge part of the DO application.  It is becoming less ubiquitous in the DO world but even programs that don’t officially require rotations often strongly suggest that serious applicants spend at least a couple of weeks for both parties to get to know each other.  There are a couple programs where most of the current residents did not rotate within the program prior to interviewing and matching, for example Larkin, Nassau, Las Cruces).  However, these programs are by far the minority.  Those of you with stellar paper applications can count on a couple of interview invites from programs that do not require rotations.  Even so, for osteopathic students, the reality of the current system is that even before you pack your Netter’s and bandage shears into your suitcase, you’ve already narrowed down your potential residencies to less than 10 programs.




No pressure… but choose wisely.






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