It’s Match week.
If you know a fourth year medical student (or recent med school graduate like myself), you might have noticed them looking a little frazzled this week.
I’ve written previously about “speed dating for medical students”, where I briefly discussed the process by which recent (or pending) med school grads find their first jobs as interns and resident physicians. The process starts when students apply to programs in their specialty (or specialties) of choice, at the end of the summer. Pretty soon (hopefully) offers to interview come in.
Interviewing is an educational, though stressful, experience. You get to see how different programs and different hospitals are run, you get to hear about life as a resident from new young doctors, and you get to meet fellow applicants who aspire to specialize in the same discipline. Throughout the interview season you develop a bit of a patter- you come to expect some questions and you recognize what are the interesting elements of your personal story that people want to know about. Interestingly, at least to me, very few people were interested in hearing about my PhD research. Rather, they wanted to know how I intended to use my skill set in my future career. “Where do you see yourself in 5 years.”
Of course, it’s kind of hard to say where you see yourself in 5 years when you don’t know where you’ll be in 6 months.
New physicians are assigned their internship and residency positions through a process called “The Match”. By the end of the interview season, a student creates a rank list, in which they order the training programs for which they would be willing to work. This list must be eventually be finalized and “certified” (this year the deadline was 9pm EST February 26th).
Students aren’t the only one’s making rank lists; programs rank applicants in the order in which they want to employ them. Once the student and program lists are certified, they are sorted by an algorithm designed to fit a theory that won Alvin E. Roth and Lloyd S. Shapley the Nobel Prize in economics. You can read more here.
Once lists are certified and the deadline has passed, computers whir and crank to determine where students will be heading come June. Students and programs get the results this week: “Match Week”. The process starts on Monday, when students get an email answering the question “Did I match”. At this point, residents are much like Schrödinger’s cat- simultaneously matched and unmatched, hanging in limbo until the email is opened.
I’ll admit that, despite being someone who tries to remain rather cool, calm, and collected (ok, that’s a lie, but I try not to worry about things that are outside my control), I experienced a significant amount of stress leading up to Monday. Blame it on the fact that last year I was in the room when a generally very competent future physician received a “you did not match” email, but I couldn’t help myself from running through the series of events that would see me unmatched (I didn’t rank that many programs and all it takes is being one slot too low on each programs rank list and you find yourself scrambling for a supplemental offer). Fortunately, Monday’s email brought me good news, and I am now on the eve of finding out where I will spend the next 3-4+ years of my life. I, along with the majority of med students around the country, will be receiving my match information tomorrow at noon EST at a match ceremony at my school. At this point I know I’ll be headed to 1 of 7 programs in 1 of 6 states…
Schrödinger’s resident is matched, tomorrow we’ll know where. Stay tuned!