Is orthopedics more competitive today than when my attending matched? An analysis of National Resident Matching Program data for orthopedic PGY1 applicants from 1984 to 2011.

Karnes JM, Mayerson JL, Scharschmidt TJ
J Surg Educ 71 530-42 07/01/2014


OBJECTIVE: This study evaluated supply and demand trends for orthopedic postgraduate year 1 (PGY1) positions from 1984 to 2011 for the purpose of estimating national intercandidate competition over time.

DESIGN: National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) data for orthopedic surgery from 1984 to 2011 were collected. Proxy variables including (total number of orthopedic applicants/number of orthopedic PGY1 positions), (number of US senior applicants to orthopedics/number of orthopedic PGY1 positions), (number of US seniors matching into orthopedics/number of US senior orthopedic applicants), (total number of matched orthopedic applicants/total number of orthopedic applicants), and (total number of US applicants who fail to match into orthopedics/total number of US senior applicants into orthopedics) as well as average United States Medical Licensing Examination Step 1 scores were used to gauge the level of competition between candidates and were compared over time.

SETTING: Academic medical center in the Midwestern United States.

PARTICIPANTS: Medical professors and medical students.

RESULTS: The NRMP data suggested that the number of positions per applicant decreased or remained stable since 1984 and that the percentage of applicants who did not match was no higher now than in the past. This finding was primarily because of the relative decrease in the ratio of applicants to available PGY1 positions, which stems from the number of positions increasing more rapidly than the number of applicants.

CONCLUSIONS: The NRMP data from 1984 to 2011 supported our hypothesis that intercandidate competition intensity for orthopedic PGY1 positions has not increased over time. The misconception that orthopedics is becoming more competitive likely arises from the increased number of applications submitted per candidate and the resulting relative importance placed on objective criteria such as United States Medical Licensing Examination Step 1 scores when programs select interview cohorts.

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