Background: Although nearly all medical students pursuing integrated plastic surgery residency participate in elective rotations away from their home medical school, the value and costs of these "away" rotations have not been well studied. Methods: The authors surveyed all integrated plastic surgery program directors and all applicants in the 2015 National Residency Matching Program. Results: Forty-two program directors and 149 applicants (64 percent and 70 percent response rate, respectively) completed the survey. Applicants reported 13.7 weeks spent on plastic surgery rotations during medical school, including a mean of 9.2 weeks on away rotations. Average reported cost for away rotations was $3591 per applicant. Both applicants and program directors most commonly reported "making a good impression" (44.6 percent and 36.6 percent, respectively) or finding a "good-fit" program (27.7 percent and 48.8 percent, respectively) as the primary goal for away rotations. Almost all applicants (91.1 percent) believed an away rotation made them more competitive for matching to a program at which they rotated. Program directors ranked a strong away rotation performance as the most important residency selection criterion. Twenty-seven percent of postgraduate year-1 positions were filled by an away rotatorm and an additional 17 percent were filled by a home medical student. Conclusions: Away rotations appear to be mutually beneficial for applicants and programs in helping to establish a good fit between students and training programs through an extended interaction with the students, residents, and faculty. In addition, making a good impression on a senior elective rotation (home or away) may improve an applicant's chance of matching to a residency program.
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