Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Match. What is it?

Since Joe is close to being done (is done?!?) with residency interview season I thought it an appropriate time for me to explain (to the best of my limited knowledge) what happens next. Because if I get asked ONE.MORE.TIME. where Joe chose to go for residency or if we know where we are moving for residency I might just explode! We DON'T KNOW!! Really we don't. 

Because here's the deal. Joe doesn't get to choose his residency location. And we don't know where we are moving for residency. It's a "MATCH" process. And we won't know anything until March 20th - MATCH DAY. 

Here is how it works (according to me, the wife of a medical student):

Step 1. Med student applies to residency programs - this is where the student has some control over the process. Joe chose to apply to emergency medicine residency programs and only in locations where we would be willing to move/can afford to live as a family of six. This happened back in mid-September. 

Step 2. Residency programs send out interview invites to applicants they are interested in. We were so thankful that Joe received many, many invites. He even rejected some interview offers! This was mid-September through the beginning of November. I was checking Joe's email multiple times a day...sometimes interview spots fill up fast and once they are gone they are GONE.

Step 3. Med student/applicant attends interviews. Sounds simple enough. But the logistics of it all is tricky (and expensive!). Interviews consist of a casual dinner the evening before, then a half or full day interview/tour process. Joe quickly discovered that it is helpful to spend time in each programs' emergency department so when possible he has been scheduling that for the day before the interview as well. He started interviewing in October and will be done later this month. Joe's school recommends each student interviews at 15 different places and we are following their "rule".

Step 4. 
Part A. Student creates a RANK LIST. Essentially they put the programs that interviewed them in order from favorite to least favorite. Only places that actually interviewed you can be included on this list (seems obvious but we have been asked about this a few times). Again seems simple enough. But there are SO many factors to consider. This list is due end of February and I am sure we will be agonizing over it until the last possible second!
Part B. Each residency program creates a rank list of the medical students they interviewed...favorite to least favorite:) I assume these lists are also due at the end of February. 

Step 5. All rank lists are put into a computer program which uses algorithm to MATCH the programs with students. It's magical. And mysterious. And absolutely mind boggling how little control we have over this process! And the worst part is there are more medical students than there are residency spots...

Step 6. The Monday before Match Day all fourth year medical students receive an email informing them if they matched or not. It does not include information on where you matched...that comes on Friday of that week. If a student doesn't match (which happens to >3% of medical students) they then have that week to try to SOAP. Basically it's a last ditch effort to get a spot in a residency...ANY residency! I am praying we don't have to go through that process. It sounds downright dreadful. And scary.

Step 7. Match Day! On the third Friday in March at noon all across the country all fourth year medical students are given an envelope that tells them WHERE they matched. Some programs have a ceremony. Some make it a game. Others just hand you the envelope. Joe's school has a champagne reception. Baby and I plan on attending. I kinda want to know as soon as possible where we will be living for the next three years!

Ok. That's really where the match process ends. But for inquisitive minds here is the rest of the story...

Step 8. Celebrate and/or mourn your match. Accept it for what it is. Find a place to live in the new city. (For us this includes finding the best school options for our children as well because two of them will be school age next year!) 
Step 9. Graduate from medical school (beginning of June). 
Step 10. Move to new city. 
Step 11. Start residency. Official first day is July 1 but most programs have a week or two of required training beforehand. 

That about covers it. Any more questions? Did I leave something out? 

Trust me, as soon as WE know we will be telling our friends and family. We aren't trying too keep anyone out of the loop. It's just we don't know yet!


  1. Good Luck! My husband is in his second year and we are already getting asked where we will be going for residency by friends and family. I don't think people realize how little control the student has over where they end up.

    1. Thank you! Only 34 days left until Match Day...but who's counting?! ;-) It feels like just yesterday my husband was a second year - the time flies! I know it doesn't seem possible but your match day will be here soon!!