It is common for International Medical Graduates (IMG) to be required to complete a U.S. Clinical Experience (USCE) in order to determine their understanding of U.S. hospital practices and procedures as well as ensuring the best possible care for incoming patients. While not all residency programs require a USCE, it is a rare to find programs that don’t require some type of applicable experience that would ensure the graduate is prepared to engage with patients, as this is the main purpose of the USCE.
All residency/clerkship programs operate differently. Not all clinical experiences counts towards the same goal, so it is important to understand what your program requires before diving into a USCE.
Not every clinical rotation in the U.S. can be applied to the same field of study. So make sure to do your research ahead of time.
What Counts and What Doesn’t
USCE is mainly used to determine whether or not a candidate has hands-on experience with patients in a U.S. hospital setting. This plays a part in determining whether or not an IMG will be an impactful addition to the hospital environment, showcases how they handle stress, as well as how they endure a fast-paced climate under the guidance of their attending physician. Typically what counts towards USCE are externships, clinical clerkships (essentially any rotation completed within the United States), and sub-internships.
There are several other courses of study that allow for additional US clinical experience for IMG, though these other courses typically does not count toward USCE. This would include research opportunities, observerships (in which an attending physician is shadowed though there is no patient contact from the IMG), similar hands-on experience in another country, or volunteer experiences. While these would help pad an application of an IMG looking to obtain a US residency spot, they would not count towards the USCE portion of the application requirements.
How To Obtain USCE
Unfortunately, there is no guarantee of obtaining hands-on medical school rotation experience, even while most programs require an applicant to have a certain amount of USCE for admittance into the program. There are numerous ways to obtain USCE in the United States, however the most common can be broken down into four categories: the most common being private, personal connections. A candidate is also welcome to contact the hospitals directly in order to seek placement, however most hospitals have decided to put those opportunities into the hands of a paid service or university that will handle placement of potential residents. Traditionally, this is the most common way for applicants to obtain placement into a residency program; however, this becomes the responsibility of the applicant to ask questions and make sure that they are being placed into the most effective program for their particular expertise.
Why a USCE Is Essential to Your Success
Integral to the success of a resident’s budding career, USCE essentially demonstrates to potential attending physicians that a candidate has communication skills, can operate during high stress situations, and clinical skills among other benefits. By the end of a successful USCE, an IMG will have obtained letters of recommendation, padded their resume with hands-on experience, familiarize themselves with the U.S. healthcare system, and professional adaptability skills.
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