The Adventures of Medical Spouse

A Blogumentary on the life, issues, headaches and butt-aches of the Spouse, Partner, Wife and Computing Saviour of the Doctor in training as well as those of his close and distant relatives. I am compiling current views, (it's residency ya'll) stories from the last 8 years(admissions, placement, school, the match, residency and the search for real work) and advice for others in the same strange and (uh) wonderful situation.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Match

If you are not a doctor have you ever heard of 'The Match"? I didn't think so. And if you are a doctor or med student, what emotional reaction does this phrase cause? Fear? Stress? Pain? Yep, that's the match. For you outsiders, the match is the process between med school and residency where you are matched with your future residency program. Depending on your specialty this is life and death. O.K. so let me go through the steps.

  1. During your fourth year of med school you decide what specialty you want to go into and what residency programs you will then apply to.
  2. You fill out your application with a great deal of emphasis on the personal statement and whether you belong to any honor societies. You also include your board scores.
  3. You send these out to a central publishing system which then distributes them, for a price, to your selected residency programs.
  4. You wait and wait for the phone calls from those who actually want to interview you.
  5. You interview, 2 days for each program.
  6. You then rank the programs for your first choices in location and program.
  7. The programs rank you in their choices of candidates.
  8. All of this data is sent to a big computer which uses complex equations to match you and your program according to the rank from your side and theirs.
  9. Your school will have a match day where everyone is gathered together over cheap cookies and bad coffee to see where they will be going or even if they matched at all.
  10. Everyone goes home and either celebrates or cries.

Now this list doesn't even begin to cover the actual stress that goes into this process.
Depending on your choice of specialties, your chance of getting the program you want is either good or nil. Let's say you are the smartest person in your class, your board scores left people speechless, you're a very kind family man and you're really cute with an eagle tattooed on your back. You want to become a family physician in Alaska. NO PROBLEM! They will send a limo to get you. (O.K. so I actually knew this guy)

How about if you are a really cool Native American chick with a penchant for sniffing out injustice and a talent for offending your administration? (not sure on the scores or anything) Wanting to take the Native American Doctors tract? Again, no problem, (Hi Lise and Cheech!)

OK, now you are a white middle class, middle aged family guy with good board scores, no honors but a really personable bedside manner and a mean surgical stitch who wants to go into Dermatology. Ha! get real! There are 1000 applicants for 250 positions and you are competing against the best and brightest because Derm don't take just anybody. Well there is always a small chance, but you had better have a back-up plan like family med or internal medicine.

Not getting into the program you really want can cause big stress. Maybe the one that accepts you is 2000 miles from your family and your husbands career? Maybe you get the one you ranked last and really hated due to personality conflicts. Maybe you get into the only program available and it's in the backwoods of icktown USA. Maybe you didn't get the specialty you wanted and have to 'Scramble'.

Special definition: The Scramble is when you didn't get into a program and you have to have you administration call around to any programs left open in any specialty to see if you can get into it at the last minute. The med students nightmare.

Oh, and how about couples match? You both decided to become Docs, he's in one specialty and you're in another. You apply under couples match to any hospitals that have both programs. You let it be know that it is a couples match. Even though this special case does get special consideration, there is no guarantee you will both be in the same place! How's that for stress?

It's a wierd system and no one has come up with a better one that provides a fair chance for as many docs as possible, but it is still an aweful process to go through. Getting an actual job at the end of residency is far easier. Even getting into med school is easier on the emotions.

So to all you students getting ready for the match, get good grades, get on honor roles and get an Eagle tatto on your back...otherwise, I'm sorry.


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