What to do with down time around the holidays

Residency Program Insider, December 17, 2007

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Most residency programs begin interviewing residency applicants anywhere from October to early December. However, as the holidays approach, interviews are usually suspended during the last couple of weeks in December and resume again in early January. Many faculty are out of the department during the holidays and unavailable for resident interviews, and those who are on duty are providing extra coverage for those who are absent. The same is true of the residents-many take extra leave in addition to the holidays allocated by the institution, and the ones who remain are extra busy. As a result, there is really no extra time available for interviewing.  

From the viewpoint of residency applicants, I believe they welcome this break from the travel and stress of interviewing. It gives them a chance to think about what they've learned thus far in the interview process and regroup for the grand finale in January.  I notice that there is often a spurt of interview cancellations and rescheduling during the holidays as applicants review their schedules in light of what they've learned during the first months of interviews (and how their travel budget is holding up!). 

As a coordinator, I find myself annually facing a big decision this time of year. Should I take some time off for myself and enjoy the holidays, or should I use this break from interviews to catch up on everything else stacking up while I deal with interview schedules and residency applicants? I do think it is a good idea to take a few days to be with family and decompress from the fast pace of the interview season, but I confess I generally opt for catching up.

The temptation to catch up on the backlog and prepare for the January crunch is just too great. In particular, the week between Christmas and New Year's is a great time to work because the department is so quiet. Interruptions (phones, etc.) are fewer, and I can get a great deal accomplished during this time. I like to get a head start on planning and scheduling for the January candidates, make sure I have all the supplies I need for the remainder of recruitment, and clear my desk of anything pending before the New Year starts. Then I try to take a long New Year's weekend and return to an organized office, refreshed and ready for the January mania to come-knowing it's as much under control as it ever will be (and we all know that can change at any time!).

All the best,

Dianna Otterstad, BA
Radiology Residency/Fellowship Coordinator
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

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