Sample letters of recommendation for emergency medicine residency programs can be difficult to come by. As emergency medicine is one of the most competitive residencies to get into, the quality of your letters of recommendation can be the deciding factor as to whether or not you get matched. Knowing where to find strong letters and what should be featured in them is key to receiving a match on your earliest attempt.
This article includes helpful samples for writing letters suited for ERAS and CaRMS and emphasizes what qualities should be put at the forefront of your application documents. We also cover who could be the best individuals to act as your references for the process of applying to emergency residency programs.
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Sample Letters of Recommendation for Emergency Medicine
Note: While these samples are great examples of how letters of recommendation can be written, every letter you submit will be unique. Check any program requirements to confirm what specific information needs to be included.
Want to know how you can make your letters of recommendation stand out? Watch this video:
Clinical Emergency Medicine Residency Letter of Recommendation
Dear Program Director,
I am truly honored to recommend Ms. Heidi Diaz to your emergency medicine residency program. I am an attending ER physician who has worked at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, Québec, for the last 15 years, where I have both treated patients, as well as supervised many upper-year medical students and residents. I worked very closely with Ms. Diaz as she completed an emergency medicine elective, where she worked a series of 15 8-hour shifts over 4 weeks as part of her medical school training. During this time, I was amazed by Ms. Diaz’s assimilation into the team, superior clinical skills, and go-getter attitude.
In the emergency room, Ms. Diaz was always professional as she interacted with nurses, doctors, house staff, and patients. The city of Montreal is very diverse, especially in the downtown area where our hospital is located. Ms. Diaz served patients in English, French, and occasionally Spanish, which is her mother tongue. One night, an elderly man came in because he had fallen and broken his hip. I was particularly impressed with the way Ms. Diaz took charge of the situation and helped create his treatment plan before he was ready for surgery, making sure everything was communicated effectively along the way. I’ll always remember our conversation afterward, where she said the man reminded her of her grandfather, who immigrated to Canada with no money to build a better life for his family. She said that being exposed to the nurses and doctors who treated her grandfather for his own medical emergencies inspired her career choice. I witnessed this firsthand as she treated every patient in her care like a family member.
Ms. Diaz has also remained calm and delivered the most efficient patient care under stressful circumstances. She had no trouble using CPR or assisting with a defibrillator on her very first shift to restart a woman’s heart as she was suffering from sudden cardiac arrest while staying in the emergency room. When other medical students seemed to be hesitant at times, Ms. Diaz stepped up to the plate often, encouraged others, and was very confident in her decision making throughout the entire rotation. She assisted a young woman who was a victim of assault by performing a trauma assessment and stabilizing her vitals. She also interacted with law enforcement during this process and provided them with any information they required.
I have witnessed a lot throughout my years, and within her rotation, Ms. Diaz left quite an impression on me as well as other staff members, who have praised her abilities to me privately. Her passion for treating patients and vast medical knowledge are just two of the qualities that will make her succeed in this field. She will excel in your residency program as an emergency physician, I have no doubt about it.
Mary Barton, MD
Academic Emergency Medicine Residency Letter of Recommendation
Dear Program Director,
It is my utmost pleasure to recommend Mr. Matthew Trenton in support of his application to your emergency medicine program. For the last 10 years, I have been an attending physician and a clinical faculty member at McGill University's Department of Emergency Medicine, where I have supervised medical students completing a senior clerkship course. Through this required clerkship, students have the opportunity to evaluate a variety of minor and major patient issues. I worked in close proximity with Mr. Trenton and witnessed his prowess for emergency medical procedures and expert clinical skills firsthand.
The goal of the course is to fully integrate students into the emergency health care team. This could not have happened more quickly for Mr. Trenton. In fact, he discovered his passion for emergency medicine through the clerkship and appreciated the amount of teamwork involved in treating urgent medical conditions. At the start of the clerkship, Mr. Trenton was still unsure of what specialty to choose, but he immediately became fascinated with emergency patient care and wound up taking electives in this specialty afterward. Supervised by attendings such as myself or senior residents, he assimilated into our facility by building working relationships with us while still putting patient care first. One moment that comes to mind is when a few of us had to work together to remove a sharp object from a patient’s leg without damaging the femoral artery. Mr. Trenton remained calm and listened to the guidance of his supervisors faithfully, despite never having treated a patient of this sort.
Mr. Trenton was also an active participant in the academic activities of the department, such as morbidity and mortality rounds. During these rounds, he was quick to learn about cognitive biases or system issues and was always wanting to improve our facility. His focus is also geared toward using medical education to improve patient care in the long run. Using case studies he worked on from the clerkship, Mr. Trenton created presentations and an action plan for avoiding harm that the fellow students were encouraged to follow. Many other students in his cohort went to him for guidance or if they had questions about emergency medicine procedures or about other medical knowledge.
If not an emergency room doctor, I could easily see Mr. Trenton teaching in medical school or becoming a faculty member at a college or university. He is a natural-born leader and dedicated physician who is among the top 10% of all the medical students I have ever worked with. He is sure to be an unforgettable presence in your residency program. I give him my highest recommendation.
Jayden Williams, MD
What Qualities to Emphasize in an Emergency Medicine Letter
Emergency medicine does require pretty much all of the same qualities as any other specialty, but with a time-sensitive caveat to them. In the emergency room, everything is simply more urgent. Letters of recommendation need to indicate experiences that illustrate your ability to handle a career in emergency medicine. Program directors want to know if you have what it takes to succeed as a resident doctor. These application documents act as proof of your credentials and as a way for professionals who have been through the same process to vouch for your candidacy. Who better to support you than another successful emergency physician? This is what will make the letters strong and persuasive to program directors. Becoming familiar with what needs to go into letters of recommendation is a significant part of learning how to prepare for your residency applications.
Letters of recommendation can be the difference between moving on to the interview stage and getting rejected. For program directors, how other physicians and professors see your potential in the specialty you apply for is key. Success in any career is dependent on the qualifications of the applicant and how they relate to their tasks. If there is a disconnect between your application materials or experience and the qualities necessary for your chosen specialty, this may result in a rejection. Then, you might need to figure out how to improve your residency application after going unmatched, which is something you will want to avoid.
Strong letters of recommendation can put you above another applicant with similar credentials. It can be the deciding factor if you are dealing with a competitive residency specialty such as emergency medicine. Combined with your emergency medicine personal statement, these letters will show how you represent the right characteristics through your determination to gain experience and knowledge in this field.
Some of the qualities most important to emergency medicine applications are:
Doctors in the ER can deal with many high-stress situations at once. They are responsible for patients coming in from natural disasters, accidents, or life-threatening health conditions. Lives are often on the line, and emergency medicine specialists must know how to keep calm under pressure. They need to make rapid decisions that can be detrimental to those around them. If you tend to freeze up under pressure or not perform to the best of your ability but still want to become a doctor, emergency medicine might not be the path for you. Any letters of recommendation should include a demonstration of this quality as well as your ability to assess patients effectively, even in the most dire and hectic circumstances. Have a discussion with your reference about their experiences with you and where you showcased this quality to ensure that it is highlighted in the letter.
Life in the emergency room moves quickly, and part of making the right decisions in a short period of time is having the knowledge to do so. Emergency physicians need to be very well-versed in medical knowledge of all parts of the body and know how to apply it in a hospital setting. For instance, one patient could come in with appendicitis, while another could have a broken wrist, which obviously require different treatment methods. As an ER physician, you will never be able to truly anticipate what is coming through the door next. Remembering details about a patient’s condition is a significant part of training in all medical disciplines, but you will need to do so at a much more rapid rate for emergency medicine. You need to be able to make connections between symptoms or recall complex procedures in order to properly treat your patients. Scoring high on licensing exams such as USMLE Step 1 can be evidence of this, but your letters of recommendation should further illustrate this quality through examples.
To specialize in emergency medicine, you must be adaptable to basically any situation. Things change quickly in medical settings, and you could be pulled from one bed to the next with each patient having different issues. You need to master the art of multitasking. Prioritizing your tasks is crucial to being an ER doctor because some cases will be considered more urgent than others, but you will still need to successfully manage all of them. You need to keep a consistent record of patient intake and discharge while providing them with the best care possible. Through specific examples from your writer, the letters of recommendation you submit need to show your organizational capabilities amid the chaos of an emergency room. Regardless of any frantic energy, the hospital needs to run smoothly. That being said, the positive side of having many things on your plate as an ER physician is that you are rarely alone to deal with them.
Doctors have to work with others on a day-to-day basis, but this is especially true for emergency physicians. In the ER, you must rely on collaboration with others to assess patients at an urgent rate that will take some time to get used to. There is simply no way to manage emergency medicine injuries or cases on your own. Therefore, communication and teamwork skills are vital to the emergency medicine specialty. Listening to other professionals in your facility, such as doctors, nurses, and residents, is key to treating the needs of emergency patients. At the end of the day, you all have the common goal of treating patients the best way you can. Depending on each other will produce the greatest results. In your applications, your references should be able to assess your ability to work in a team as well as to make independent decisions.
Who Should Write Your Emergency Medicine Letter of Recommendation?
Asking references for a strong letter is something you are likely used to after having dealt with medical school recommendation letters in the past. Acquiring letters of recommendation for residency is not too far off from this. The focus should primarily be on clinical experience, as these references will be the most able to assess your candidacy for residency. By this point, you will also know how to choose a medical specialty and your reference letters should reflect this choice. Ideally, you will have more clinical experience under your belt, most of it being related to emergency medicine. Therefore, the letters are more likely to be tailored to the programs you are interested in.
There is no secret ingredient to getting a strong letter of recommendation other than putting your best foot forward into everything you do. You should always keep in mind that you will need letter writers when the time comes. If you are a great colleague and person to work with, it should not be very difficult to retrieve them. Your references should be delighted to have the opportunity to write your letter. If that is not the reaction you receive, or you sense some hesitation, you may want to think about someone else. You can also find out how to write your own letter of recommendation and use that example as a guide for potential references. They can then follow your structure, but fill in the template with whatever they want to say.
As you decide on who to ask, try and have a variety of perspectives. The ideal would be to have a mix of professors, research advisors, attending physicians, and clerkship supervisors whose work relates to emergency medicine. Having letters from only one type of source may not be the best approach, as program directors want to see a holistic portrait of you as an applicant without losing sight of qualities necessary for emergency medicine. Regardless of their exact role, the person writing should know you well and have worked with you enough to be able to assess your aptitude for an emergency residency program specifically. At least one of your letter writers should be directly related to emergency medicine. They will be the most qualified to speak to your suitability for this particular discipline.
The value of letters of recommendation should not be lost on medical students, who have often used them to get to the next step of their careers. Knowing how to find verifiers and referees to ask for letters of recommendation is simply part of the process of becoming a medical professional. The field of emergency medicine is hazardous due to the number of things that could go wrong and the quick judgment calls you will have to make. Residency programs want to ensure they are accepting the very best candidates. Doctors currently working in the field are the most accurate judges of whether you are truly ready to become a medical resident. Their opinion will undoubtedly resonate with residency program directors. With their approval, you have a better chance of being officially inducted into the next generation of physicians.
Getting matched to a residency program is your first real taste of a professional medical career post-graduation. The application process is a true test of your dedication to health care. It is not meant to be easy. You need the support of others to succeed at becoming a doctor. If you have any doubts about your application, seeking professional help from a residency application consultant or expert advisor can take you to the next level and secure that residency match.
1. How competitive are emergency medicine residency programs?
The emergency medicine specialty is among the most competitive disciplines and is up there with various surgery programs in terms of competition. This is in contrast to primary care specialties such as family medicine, which are often considered the least competitive residency programs to get into.
2. Who should write my letters of recommendation for emergency medicine?
Some programs will have specific guidelines for who to receive letters from, but selecting individuals who have worked with you on a professional and personal level is the best course of action. Your letter writers should be pre-clinical professors, research advisors, attending physicians, and department heads. Remember to have at least one referee who is involved in emergency medicine. They will be able to provide the strongest letters that will be most convincing to residency program directors.
3. Who should not write my letters of recommendation?
Anyone who seems hesitant or unwilling to write your letter of recommendation will not be the best choice. Also, you should not be asking someone you have only met in passing or who you do not have a close relationship with.
4. How should I ask for a letter of recommendation?
Asking in person is considered the best method, but email is perfectly acceptable if that is your only option. Either way, if you have a strong relationship with the person, they are more likely to write a strong letter of recommendation on your behalf. Ask them directly and privately for the best results.
If they accept, you should provide them with any information they may need, such as your residency CV, residency personal statement, USMLE or COMLEX scores, transcripts, and any other relevant documents.
5. When should I ask for letters of recommendation?
As early as possible. Two months before the deadline is a good goal to remember in terms of your application timeline. That way, you will be the most prepared.
6. How many letters will I need for residency applications?
Most residency programs require three letters, but you can submit up to four. However, this truly depends on whether you know how many residency programs to apply to. Having five or six, if you can get them, will give you the most options for tailoring your application to the particular residency program you are interested in.
7. I am an international medical graduate. How should I get letters of recommendation from the US or Canada?
An international medical graduate will have more obstacles ahead of them in order to get matched to a residency program in North America. Unfortunately, letters from your country of origin may not be considered as credible as those from the US or Canada. You can still include a few from the place you graduated, but at least one or two of your letters should come from the country where you wish to begin your residency. Securing the right IMG electives and clinical experience will lend itself to meeting professionals who are more familiar with what residency programs there are looking for. You can then ask these individuals to write strong letters of recommendation after demonstrating your work ethic and passion for medicine.
8. Can academic consulting help with my residency applications?
Seeking professional residency help can positively impact any part of your residency application process. Trained admissions experts can assist with editing personal statements or other documents and developing a strategy that will maximize your chances of receiving a match. You can also learn how to respond to the most common emergency medicine residency interview questions with realistic simulations that will help you perform to the best of your ability when the time comes.
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