I haven’t posted much in the last month and thats because the last month has been full of excitement and anxiety for me. And that’s because of The Match. No, I’m not talking about some sporting event. I’m talking about the process by which medical students (finally!) become doctors!
When we finish medical school, we’re not ready to start practicing as physicians. First, we need on-the-job training in a specialty of our choice. This is called residency. There are hundreds of residency programs in the US and thousands of medical students every year hoping to train at the spots they offer. We medical students begin the process of applying to residency at the beginning of our fourth year in medical school. Hopefully, we’re offered a decent number of interviews based on our applications. So far, sounds like any other profession, right?
But we’re not offered a job at the end of a residency interview. No, the way The Match works is by making rank lists. Medical students will rank all the programs at which they’ve interviewed and the programs will rank all their applicants. The Match is a mathematical algorithm that uses these rank lists to match medical students to residency program spots.
All good, right? You enter The Match, and you get a job! Ah, if it were only so simple we wouldn’t be so stressed! Firstly, not everyone that submits to The Match will get a job because there are more applicants than there are residency spots. Secondly, The Match is a binding contract; you must accept whatever program the algorithm decides upon, whether it is your first or last choice.
So on Monday last week, I got an email saying that I had matched to a program! Thank goodness!! I have a job, somewhere! I will become a doctor! But I had to wait through an agonizing week until Friday to find out which program I had matched with. Would I get my first choice? My last? Something in between?
Friday, Match Day, finally came. Match Day is a much bigger deal for medical students than our graduation. Graduation is a formality. But Match Day marks the first step to the next phase of our medical training. That’s the day we find out where we will spend the next 3-7 years of our lives. It’s, quite literally, life-altering!
The air on Match Day was thick with excitement, stress, anticipation, hope, fear, and so many more emotions! My classmates and I stood interspersed across the room, each clutching an envelope that held the answers to our future. My mom stood beside me and my dad, who couldn’t get away from work, FaceTimed in while following along on the official live video stream.
We counted down the seconds, ten-nine-eight-seven-six-five-four-three-two-one! It was 11 am, it was time! My hands trembled as I fumbled with the seal on the envelope. Finally, I ripped open the envelope and pulled out the single sheet of paper that held my fate. We laughed and hugged. I was going to train to become a pediatrician at my first choice program! And then the celebrations ensued!