Monday, March 15, 2010

The Making of a Match

365:143 Matchmakers

Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match, find me a find, catch me a catch. ~ Fiddler on the Roof

If it were only that easy. Today is the first of four critical days this week, when fourth year medical students find out if they have been snatched up by one of their choices for residency training. Tomorrow, unfilled positions will be posted and students who did not find placement can pursue alternatives. Thursday is Match Day, when you learn the name of your "dancing partner" for at least the next four years.

There's no village matchmaker for these decisions, unless we count the NRMP (National Residency Matching Program), which takes student applications and residency program evaluations and coordinates pairing-up. It's not automatic that a student gets their first choice and hence, the tension. Today's "will I match?" becomes Thursday's "where did I match?"

The process actually began last fall, as students completed showcase rotations at hospitals where they might like to become residents. These are opportunities to demonstrate your interest and capabilities within a given field. It's a time for evaluating a program and getting well-acquainted with program personnel. Practicing physicians often say residency committees are, essentially, asking of applicants, "Do we like you and can you play well with others?" In short, do we want you around for four years?

Applying for residency is like filling out a list of potential boy or girl friends and then waiting to see if any of them are interested in you, too. The last thing you want is to end up a wall flower waiting for a partner when the music has already started. From the chatter on Facebook, it appears my class has done well and the floor will be crowded in July when training begins -- I couldn't be happier! Two more years of "lessons" and I'll join them, hoping by then to have learned how to dance without stepping on my partner's toes (smile).

(Creative Commons image by angelsk via Flickr
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