Match Day: The Emotional Rollercoaster

Match Day: The Emotional Rollercoaster

There are Triple Threat Wrestling Matches, keyword matches, and even a book of matches, but if you are reading this chances are the Residency Match is the only one that matters to you. Match Day is powerful, filled with angst and pathos; a source of great disappointment or great joy. The bottom line is it’s all about the algorithm and there is no changing that. However, you can change your reaction to it.

The Match Day algorithm used by the National Residency Matching Program is basically speed dating on steroids. You like them, they like you – but not enough – so you end up with your lowest ranking match. Or, you like each other so much that you land your number one match. It can be trying on either side of the equation. Here’s how some of your fellow students survived Match Day and its results.

Going crazy, waiting for the match

I’m sitting here watching my infant child, batting at colorful toys that are JUST out of grasp. He keeps trying to grab them, but is not quite coordinated enough to accomplish anything but bat them further away. He then throws up his hands in exasperation and brings them to his mouth to self-soothe. I am identifying with his struggle HARD. Match Day is just out of reach, I am unable to do anything to make it come any sooner, and I plan to self-soothe with ice cream that I unashamedly had delivered to my door last night.

AlmostThere2018, Feb 22, 2018

Why didn’t I Match to my #1, or #2 or #3?  

I matched to my number 7 choice on my list. Why would this be? The programs that I ranked 1-3 basically hinted during the interview that they really liked me and hoped I enjoyed their program very much. So naturally, I’m bummed as to why I did not match to ANY of my previous 6 preferred choices!

hopefulmatchapplicant, Mar 17, 2017

Advice from people involved in the Match process:

Sorry, life is becoming more and more competitive, We had almost 100 applicants for our positions, and we are not some name brand. It sucks when you think you are the best and used to succeeding. You are competing against 25-100 people for EACH position – there are a heck of a lot of 3.9 GPA students out there; many we ranked and didn’t even grant interviews to. First rule in life, don’t make excuses, don’t think something is wrong, suck it up and make the best of it.

Dred Pirate, Mar 21, 2017

We didn’t rank someone that was an outstanding candidate on paper. It’s like dating – you can tick all the boxes but if you meet and there’s no spark, it’s a no go. You can’t explain it any other way. Some people just don’t fit in our program – don’t fit with the people, don’t have the personality that would make them advance here.

spacecowgirl, Mar 20, 2017

What happens after the Match? Calls for many, celebrations for some

Some programs simply send the Match letter.

“No welcome letter, nothing else. Programs will be in touch in the coming days, but don’t be alarmed if they don’t call you personally or get super ecstatic about your impending arrival.”

AdmiralChz, Mar 15, 2017

“I remember people losing it that they didn’t hear anything or didn’t get a phone call. Relax, if it’s on the paper then you are golden.”

AdmiralChz, Mar 16, 2017

Other programs are much more ceremonial about the process & welcome Match candidates with open arms.

“I got a call from my program director on match day. I totally wasn’t prepared for it and happened to answer the phone on the bus not knowing who it was. I had to talk in a hushed voice and couldn’t really hear what they were saying. I don’t know if either of us know for sure what was said during the call.”

educ8r, Mar 15, 2017

From a Match program director:

“We expect you to be partying. I’m calling for fun. This should not be stressful.”

aProgDirector, Mar 16, 2017

I feel like I’m going to die

To put it all in perspective, one student posed the question, “What if someone who submitted their rank list dies before match day?” The answer may put a smile on your face.

At least in surgery, death is likely not a viable excuse for absences during residency. As such, it should also be noted that submitting your Rank Order List is a BINDING CONTRACT which supersedes even God’s authority. Therefore, if an applicant dies after submitting their list, they are still required to show up for at least the first year of residency. After completion of internship, they can withdraw from medicine to the afterlife if that is their preference.”


One last thing – prepare for your move


You are going to work long hours in the residency years ahead, so take care of important details before you step into the hospital. Here are a few items to remember:

Housing, housing, housing: What is the housing market in your residency area? What is the commute between where you want to live and where you will work? Should you rent or own? Will the banks help you with physician loans?

Start the licensing process: You need NPI (National Provider Identifier) and DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) numbers for the hospital to obtain reimbursement for your work. The process may involve getting fingerprinted and other tasks. Check with the state’s medical licensing board and get the process started. It can take months.

Know when you begin: Confirm your starting date for orientation and work. Know when and where you need to show and get there early. First impressions still count.

Make friends: If the residents in the hospital or health care system have a social media group – join it. Get to know them. You are going to need the camaraderie and support of a team to get through the long sleep deprived hours of residency.

Matching is the first step in what will hopefully be a long and productive medical career. We hope you got your first choice, but if not, proceed with tenacity and show them what you are made of. Resilience and determination will serve you well.

Deborah Chiaravalloti is an award-winning writer and former hospital executive. Her insider experience helps healthcare clients launch medical procedures, products including artificial intelligence software and knowledge sharing platforms. Deborah writes websites, blogs, opinion pieces, and marketing strategy for elder care, health care consumerism, revenue cycle management (RCM), and the business of healthcare. Her printed pieces have been published and her radio shows syndicated nationally.

Try BoardVitals free for 10 days.

Free Trial. No credit card required.