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Medical Training Flexibility Year Off

Discussion in 'General Residency Issues' started by Pop, Apr 22, 2007.

  1. Pop

    Pop 5+ Year Member

    Aug 26, 2006
    I am beginning medical school in the fall and I would like to take a year off sometime to travel the world and or get a second degree. My question is when are the most flexible times to do this?

    During Medical School - How hard is it to take a year off? (is faculty against this?) When is the best time to take off? What are the advantages/ disadvantages or these?
    1. between 2nd and 3rd,
    2. 3rd and 4th
    3. After 4th

    It is entirely possible that I may not take time off, but it would be refreshing to hear that there is some flexibility in my medical training to be original.

    Also, if I took a year off after 4th year do I still use the match? Or am I free to sign with a medical program on my own? Is it an advantage to not have to use the match?

    Thank You!!
    Dredding Committment
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  3. AmoryBlaine

    AmoryBlaine the last tycoon 7+ Year Member

    May 1, 2006
    You can do whatever you want really. Most people would probably do it between 2nd and 3rd year (after boards). This is when MD/PhD students peel off and get their research done.

    Outside of MD/PhD programs I think you'll find that taking a year off is a pretty rare event unless you have personal problems. Getting another degree is reasonable but I'm not sure how your school's admin will look on a purely recreational jaunt.

    Loans don't disapear when you're having fun...

    Taking a year off to travel would certainly not be an advantage when applying to residency. It doesn't prove anything about how "well-rounded" you are to PDs and probably instead raises questions about your ability to cope with long-term stress.
  4. Tired

    Tired Fading away 7+ Year Member

    Dec 12, 2006
    I've only heard of this happening once, and it was after graduation. People I've known have talked about it, especially during third year when everyone is burned out and hating life. My school though, is not particularly receptive to the idea, from what I hear. Gotta have a "personal hardship" angle to get a deferal, either prior to matriculation or during school.

    The girl who traveled after graduation was pretty limited when she got back, and had to take a prelim surg spot at our home institution. From what I've heard, things turned out well for her in the end, mainly because she's really good, but I can see it being an issue in residency if you're just mediocre.
  5. aProgDirector

    aProgDirector Pastafarians Unite! Moderator SDN Advisor 10+ Year Member

    Oct 11, 2006
    I'm not sure it's so doom and gloom. People take time off for all sorts of reasons -- having a baby, travel, research, MBA, etc. If you are looking for one of the most competitive fields, perhaps it will make a difference. I think much of the difference depends on what you do and how you spin it. If you say "well, I wasn't sure what I wanted so I just went and hung out on the beach, drank margaritas, and relaxed" you may have some problems. If you spin it as a learning opportunity, seeing other cultures, etc, I think you could be fine.

    Gives you something to put in your PS!
  6. eastcoastyall

    eastcoastyall Wisdom Onslaught 5+ Year Member

    Feb 17, 2007
    At the more prestigious medical schools, you will find that a large percentage of each class takes a year off at some point. Harvard, Columbia and Stanford (well the flexible system helps) all come to mind. Most people take the year off between 3rd and 4th year, as you have a clinical basis and a better idea of what you want to do with your life. Very few between second and third year. I know of two who took a year off after they graduated, and they both matched into prestigious programs.

    Taking a year off has many benefits, as you can build your resume with research or another degree, meet the right people in your field, and attend related conferences. Don't listen to the people who say that you have to go stright through, because that is just wrong. Take a year off if you want, preferably after third year.
  7. hattie

    hattie Junior Member 5+ Year Member

    Jan 30, 2006
    it depends on a variety of things... I think in my class about 15 of us took a year off, some for research years, some for family reasons (having a baby, etc), some for clinical experiences abroad, and nearly all of us did very well in the match (including some very competitive specialties for the people who did research). I would suggest that if you want to take a year to travel to integrate some sort of clinical experience into it somehow... interviewers will ask you what you did with your time off and what you learned. It is possible that some programs might look down on your choice, I only found this once, but it really wasn't a place that was in line with my values anyway.

    Be aware, though, that if you choose to do another degree or some other not so medically related activity, you will forget a decent amount while you are away from school, and this can make your return a little rough... you'll catch up, but I would suggest if you take time off between 3rd and 4th year that you try to do your acting internships and any "audition rotations" no earlier than september to let yourself get back in the swing of things with a few not quite so important rotations. Between 3rd and 4th year is nice, because you have all of your core rotations under your belt, and would be more likely to get something out of a clinical experience elsewhere. Also, hopefully by then you would have some idea of what you might like to match into and can tailor your away experience accordingly. It would be hard to explain doing a year in a womens clinic in a faraway country between 2nd and 3rd year and then trying to match into radiology or peds, for example.

    Good luck and don't worry about this quite so much now... you might surprise yourself and find you just want to crank through it, also keep your ears open for abroad opportunities between 1st and 2nd year and also during 4th year, the combination may be enough to keep you sane and on track. I think at my school you could spend up to 20-28 weeks here and there abroad (probably more with a good reason) without ever taking "time off".
  8. gutonc

    gutonc No Meat, No Treat Administrator Physician PhD 10+ Year Member

    Mar 6, 2005
    A fibrotic stroma
    Exactly. As long as you also learn some Spanish and volunteer a little time in a rural clinic in Belize you can totally relax on the beach and drink margaritas for a year.

    Don't expect to be a shoo-in for an integrated plastics program w/ this plan.
  9. skypilot

    skypilot 2K Member 15+ Year Member

    Dec 15, 2002
    Yes lots of people are taking a year off at my school. But most of them have some kind of project lined up. One is taking a year to go to Australia and work in Anesthesia. Several are taking time to work for the NIH or in Foreign countries. Of course all the MD/PhD candidates are taking many years off after 2nd year. Definitely take Step 1 before you take time off. I think a year off is a good idea especially if it will help you clarify your objectives for the future.
  10. Pop

    Pop 5+ Year Member

    Aug 26, 2006
    Thank you all for your responses.

    Is there a reason why it is better to take time off between 3rd and 4th rather than 2nd and 3rd?

    Also, when you want to take time off from med school, is it hard to get permission, and how long will they let you off for?

    Lastly, why is it so bad to take time off after graduating from med school? Will you have nothing to do 4th year if you're not applying for residency? Wouldn't it be easier to secure a good residency if you can skip out of the match?

    Thanks a lot everyone.
    -Why does medical education not allow much flexibility?
  11. Winged Scapula

    Winged Scapula Cougariffic! Staff Member Administrator Physician Faculty Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved 15+ Year Member

    Apr 9, 2000
    hSDN Member
    The match rate for physician candidates (ie, those who have graduated from medical school) is lower than for 4th year students. Granted, many of those may be unqualified for the residencies they are applying for, may be years away from medical practice, etc. but there is some bias against anyone who has a gap in his medical education, for fear that you have lost some of your knowledge and clinical skills. Frankly, the learning curve is pretty steep during internship but you can usually get back up to speed relatively quickly. But you cannot ignore programs that will prefer the 4th year student, especially if you take more than a year off or if you are engaged in non-medical endeavors.

    You'll still have classes to take during your 4th year so its not like you'll have "nothing to do" if you don't apply for residency.

    Not necessarily. Programs who participate in the NRMP are required to offer a certain percentage of their residency spots in the match; therefore, you would be competing for a smaller number of positions. Secondly, although technically as an Independent candidate you are eligible to sign a contract outside of the match, many programs are not willing to do so - why should they when they have a good record of attracting quality candiates in the match?

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