The residency match is a complex algorithm and grueling process involving applying to up to hundreds and then interviewing at dozens of hospitals to be selected to begin your training in one specialty and hospital. For those outside of medicine, it’s considered the NBA draft for doctors with the exception of million dollar starting salaries, (but I digress). Landing an interview is a big feat. Remember, ultimately the Match technically can work in your favor despite the complex, gut wrenching process of uncertainty. Rank the places you honestly would see yourself happiest and not where you “statistically” will match. Your happiness comes before anything.
Think about your support system and friends and family. For me, that was very important. I originally said I wanted to be in a warmer climate like Florida or Arizona to beat seasonal depression that would be further complicated by residency stress, but then I changed my mind. I knew I wanted to be near my family and make up for lost times while in the the pre-doctoral journey and it’s the best decision I could’ve made. Now I have my support system closer and not to mention, momma’s home cooked meals 😑☺️. Lastly, chose a place that has a desirable city for leisure. If you enjoy city life, go to the big city! If you’re more a small town or suburban person, go there !
Some people say you’ll just feel a certain vibe during interviews. When you feel it, t’ll click. It’s kind of indescribable. It’s a feeling where you can fully picture yourself at that hospital amongst those residents with the program director. It’s a feeling and intuition that tells you, yes this is the place for me. Maybe you might feel that at two different places. Sometimes you go into interview season with a number one program in mind that skews your true feelings with confirmation bias. Don’t chose a place with a big name simply because it has a big name. Make sure you truly could see yourself comfortable and supported there. In simple terms, just trust your gut.
Make sure the residency that you’re choosing aligns with your future short and long-term goals. If you want to go into fellowship and further specialize, make sure this is a residency that has an excellent fellowship match. Look at the list of hospitals people have matched and the specialties they have matched into. If you are more interested in research, go to a place that has access to dozens of research mentors and where research is a big part of the academic life at that hospital. If you’re more into procedures don’t go to a place that doesn’t have much trauma exposure or doesn’t allow residents to do many procedures. Make sure there are things in place at the residency that truly align with your interests and goals.
Protected Teaching and Learning
Many programs will say they teach and have didactics sessions. But, you should pay attention to whether or not these days of teaching sessions are protected time. When I say protected I mean truly protected as in you are not in the middle of patient care while it is happening and you have to sacrifice either or. Ensure that teaching is adequate relative to the amount of scut work you’ll be expected to do. Ask these questions on interviews! Residency is going to be hard regardless so it’s not wise to go to a place that’s gonna run you to the ground, overwork you and not teach you and leave you having to put the pieces together after you’ve already been broken down.
Wellness is not just having wellness outings like happy hours, pizza days or ice cream socials or PowerPoints. Wellness activities are null and void if you don’t actually have enough time off to attend the activities. This term is often marketed as a selling point but usually doesn’t hold true so you must investigate. Wellness is going to a place that prioritizes your schedule and gives you enough time to rest in between grueling work hours. Residency is hard and many programs may have 24 hour call, long call every two days or so on, which can be inevitable with many residencies. Go to a program that’s going to prioritize your mental health but truly have a supportive program leadership. Even if you do have these long hours, which are usually inescapable at most residencies, at least make it worth the time knowing the atmosphere is one that is not malignant and promotes a healthy environment for all. Ask about the nursing staff and if there’s good resident and nursing interactions. These things matter. After all you’re gonna be there for a minimum of three years and you’re going to need your mental health to be stable to get through residency so accept nothing less.
Goodluck, Happy Match Day in advance, future Doctor!