Three Things I Learned From Match Day

Three Things I Learned From Match Day

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Match Day for medical residency is a stressful time for medical students. Learn from Panacea Co-Founder Dr. Michael Jerkins what he learned from his match day experience.

Match Day is Unlike Any Other Job Offer

Cliches exist for a reason. When a phrase communicates some sort of truth or insight into a commonly shared experience it can be prone to repeating over and over, ad nauseam. So when I think of The Match I immediately hear The Godfather, Don Corleone, saying, “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” 

What other job exists where you work for years, spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, and eventually have your fate determined by an email telling you where you are going to work for the next several years. This is not a job offer, this is a job commitment. And the commitment was made when you were completing NRMP and signed the “Match Participation Agreement” which contractually obligates the applicant to accept a residency position if a match occurs. It is truly an offer you can’t refuse.

The fact that the immense pressure a residency applicant is under after all of the personal and financial sacrifices all comes down to one single email is hard to describe. Furthermore, the extremes of emotions are difficult to understand if you haven’t gone through it. However like all Match Day experiences, mine is unique and therefore,  admittedly, what I learned may not be generalizable. There are an infinite number of outcomes and emotions elicited from the experience.

My Match Day Experience as a Medical Student

My Match Day events were held in the courtyard of a historic building close to my medical school, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, and there were drinks and food available beforehand. However, I did not eat anything. I couldn’t. Partly because of the nerves, but also because I was carrying around my five month old son and had no real hands-free to eat vienna sausages and cheese blocks.

After meandering a bit and visiting with my classmates, family, and other friends present. I gathered with my family (which also included my classmate brother) and was handed an envelope that had my Match Day results. I first opened my envelope with my wife and viewed the results, then shared with my brother, and lastly turned to the larger group there to announce the offer that I…you guessed it…couldn’t refuse.

And here is what I learned:

Three Things I Learned From Match Day

1. People Care About Your Match Day Results. Loop them in.

As I mentioned, I recognize my Match Day experience is not generalizable and only one experience out of the infinite possibilities. Fortunately, I did have loved ones present, but there are many who did not. And now due to the pandemic, Match Day ceremonies are vastly different from only a few years ago.

Because medical students and residency applicants have taken such a tough road there are many people who likely are aware of the sacrifices made and time invested in it, and are genuinely curious as to the next career phase. Even if it can be difficult to fully explain to the outsider, include them and loop them in.

Friends and family care, but also those in your medical school community care! Think about those who invested in you, and have shaped your path. Faculty who wrote you letters of recommendation, school leadership who helped craft your applications, and mentors who guided you through the process. Send them a note or message. Let them know personally what your next step looks like.

2. Treat Yourself

This may go without saying but treat yourself! There were many people I knew that attended the Match Day results and unfortunately had to go back to their clinical rotations. Obviously that stinks. But even if it is not immediately after Match Day, find a way to do something for yourself that you wouldn’t normally do. 

For me, I was able to get a babysitter (for the first time) and my wife and I attended our Match Day party. Parents night out! It is still a night we look back on fondly, even if the details are a little fuzzy.

If the Match results did not go as you planned this is extra important. And if you follow lesson 1 above, you may have someone to give you an emotional pick-me-up in the process.

3. Make A Plan 

After opening that envelope, I knew where I was going to be working for the next three years. My neurotic Internist mind immediately was worried about the details of where I was going to live, how I was going to move, was I even ready for intern year, and a million other questions. 

I was able to get a lot of the questions answered by my future Program Director and Chief Resident. This helped me develop a plan, and ultimately prioritize the long list of “to-do’s”.

I was not able to do this by myself but only was able to really develop this with people that had already gone through it before me. Notice a theme? It takes a village! Don’t try to go it alone and reinvent the wheel yourself. Most residency programs have resources ready to go for you to help with any potential move.

Conclusion

The Match Day experience is unlike any other. Not many people that are not medical students can really understand what it feels like to go through it, and it can be equal parts stressful, joyous and disappointing. Take time to soak it in and actively seek out support from your network. “The village” can be immensely valuable in helping you through this transition. And as with all things, don’t hesitate to ask questions of those that have come before you!

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