This is a tricky question.  Some physical medicine and rehabilitation doctors don’t address it on their curriculum vitae.  Some doctors don’t explain it on their cv but explain it in a cover letter.  Other doctors don’t address it unless the employer notice the gap on their cv.  What should you do?

It depends on the reason for the gap in your professional physiatry timeline.  It could be due to illness, the time spent looking for a new job, time spent caring for a family member, provided childcare, loss/suspension of a license, etc.

Some reasons are professionally acceptable but others like taking the time to find a new PM&R job usually raises a red flag.  If the former, let your cv show that your gap isn’t a red flag.  There’s a degree to which the reasons for a gap are acceptable.  Anything that impacts your license is unwelcome to employers.  There is no way to successfully explain this gap.

Regardless of the amount of time you weren’t working in physiatry, it has to be addressed on your cv.  If the reason for your gap time is one of the less acceptable reasons, it might serve you well to explain it in detail in a cover letter.

Thinking that your gap won’t be found is not facing reality.  Instead, it will cause a delay in your obtaining a physiatry job while at the least the discussion about it ensues.  At the worst months will go by in your practice search process and then you will be stopped in your tracks when the gap is discovered and rejection occurs and you’re back to square one.

Regardless of the length of the gap in your physiatry timeline, it should be included on your cv.  Of course, normal vacation time is understood.  Your cv should include the month and year of every entry in your education and experience sections.  Hiring entities, hospitals and payors are very attentive to this information.

Honesty is the best policy.  Whatever stress if any you may have gone through during the gap time, being honest on your cv will reduce any further continued stress for you.  The less stress you feel, the better you will do in the physiatry practice search.

Preparing to explain the gap is paramount.  How to explain a license issue is best done by providing the information from the license board.  You can explain your side of the issue in a cover letter.

Each reason for a gap is individual so it’s hard to offer an acceptable explanation to you.  Explain your gap and move on.  Don’t dwell on it in your explanation.  Focusing on it will only make it a bigger issue.  Focus instead of your desire and readiness to return to the workforce.  Stay calm.

Took time looking for a new job

You can give examples of how you have been proactive but selective about looking for a new physical medicine and rehabilitation job during your career gap. Show how you have thought about what you want from a new job as well as from a new employer. Explain why you think this particular position is a good fit for you and why you would be a good fit within the company at large.

Became a stay-at-home parent 

Explain that you took time out to prioritize your family and look after your children. Elaborate on why you now feel ready to go back to physiatry work. Why are you excited about this new phase in your life? Provide details that can prove you are a good fit for the position. Also, make sure to show closure, e.g., the kids are grown and in school. Employers know that family is important, but they also want to be reassured that you won’t treat your role as secondary.

Left the workforce to be a caretaker

There is no need to go into the details of the illness or your responsibilities as a caregiver during your physiatry employment gap. Just like taking time off to be a full-time parent, make it clear that your relative has recovered or you have more support in place at home and can reenter the workforce with no obstacles.

Personal illness

Illnesses and injuries explain career gaps in employment very easily. But, make sure to clarify that these ailments won’t get in the way of you working efficiently. Again, there is no need to provide specific details of the illness or injury unless it directly affects the job you are interviewing for. Show that you are ready and more than willing to return to work, emphasizing why you think the physiatry position you applied for is a good fit.

Took time off to travel

Expound on why you decided to go travelling. If you learned anything through this experience, now is the best time to talk about it. Stress on points such as personal development, better cultural awareness, and gaining new perspectives. At the same time, make it clear that you are ready to return to work full-time. So, also talk about why this particular PM&R job opportunity excites you.

Got fired

Explain that you and your former company had different expectations. Show how you realize that you could have handled some things differently, but through the entire process, you have learned a lot and are excited about the new physiatry opportunity to bring everything you have learnt to your next job.

Got laid off

Briefly talk about why your previous role was made redundant, e.g., budget cuts.  Provide examples of key achievements and strong performance while you were in your previous physiatry job. Take time to explain what positive things you have been doing such as moonlighting or locum tenens since having left your previous employer and why you think the position you applied for is a good fit.


Relocating from one geographic area to another is a reason why you would have a career gap in your physiatry curriculum vitae. The best strategy is to tell the employer how you spent your time while unemployed, highlighting positives gained rather than the negatives.

For more information about cv preparation, please visit here.  Featured at the 2021 virtual Annual Assembly, special guests Monica Rho, MD, FAAPMR and Linda Farr, MPA discussed tips and tricks for virtual interviewing and how to compose a winning CV. Note: These sessions are only available for viewing by AAPM&R members.

For practice opportunities with Farr Healthcare, Inc., please visit here.