In Canada, most residencies are at least 5 years and while it is possibe to switch programs, this is by no means a given. This means that the both the specialty and the site where you do it have major implications on your life.
We have a national match in Canada. Residency programs rank their applicants, applicants rank their residencies; the computer spits out a match. To ensure that they get at least a job next year, students are advised to apply to as many programs as possible including at least 2 different specialties (one resident blurted out that he was applying to urology so anaesthesia was his fall back). Each residency however still interviews its own applicants and while some specialties have centralized the process so that students can travel to one city to interview to all their desired programs; most including anaesthesia don't. The one concession is that most programs have coordinated their interview dates so that students can make a single road trip for all the interviews at least within a single region. You can imagine the expense of travelling to 14 programs which I think is the average number applied to. This is after 6-8 years of university and medical school.
Which leads to to what I did today which was to interview 14 prospective residents. Now given my antipathy for the CoE where the residency program is based, one wonders why I would even bother to volunteer for this but the fact is they asked nicely; I actually like the program director and her secretary; they sounded desperate and I thought it would be classy thing to do.
Now I only got back into town the day before and had to spend the evening before, on the web reading over the information of my 14 interviewees which are published on the web. The first thing I realized was that I was about to interview 14 individuals whose shit not only did not stink but had never stunk.
The problem is that most residents seem to be well coached into writing a really good personal letter and with work processing it is really easy to personalize a leter to each program you are applying for. People get letters of reference from staff they have had a good experience with; staff are of course reluctant to spoil a student's career by giving them any less than a pristine letter of reference. Further because programs vary so much in Canada, looks at their marks is of no help.
Therefore the half hour the applicant spends with me becomes important.
In the interview we ask the applicant a lot of general questions (I had a lot of fun asking them what their favourite medical TV show was). We look at how they answer these questions, their body posture, general demeanor etc. We are not allowed to ask them where else they are applying, are they married or do they plan to have children.
Problem is, none of these have any bearing on the applicants ability to be trained as an anaesthesiologist or any other specialty for that matter.
At the end of the day, all 14 applicants, I interviewed I could live with as residents. Some I really liked, some I liked less. I assigned them scores between 7 and 10/10 we talked them over with the program director. She will have the huge job of ranking them based on my "objective" score and by reading their documents. Later this year the computer will spit out what they will be doing for the next five years which will have a major bearing on the rest of their lives.
And I have participated in this whole exercise and quite frankly I'm not sure what I accomplished.