Here's your relatively boring backstory. If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain, right?
---------I complain a lot about being a penniless freelance writer, but compared to the life of a penniless fourth-year med student?
My life's cake.
Funfetti cake with gold dust sprinkles.
Funfetti cake with gold dust sprinkles, unicorns, and sparkly fountains that spew forth rainbow sunshine, good will, and cheer.
Let me tell you about everything I've witnessed Derrick go through in his 4th year. Without a word of complaint, I might add. (But you know what, kids? This is my blog, and I can complain about anything I damn well please)
Besides all the stress, exams, essays, letters of recommendation, presentations, call nights, 6 PM-3 AM shifts for four nights out of the week, rapid-fire examinations, 6 week-late disbursements from an incompetent financial aid department, massive student loans, and the whole "watching patients die or telling patients they're ABOUT to die" part...
...you've got to get into a residency program, where you'll spend the next four years of your life.
Getting into a Residency Program: It's Like Prostitution, But With More Diseases
To get into a residency program, you also have to pay an obscene amount of money to submit your application--which you've spent a three months completing-- to various programs who will then contact you and offer you select dates to come interview. Some of these programs will offer you just one interview.
Naturally, this date will conflict with three other residency programs who have also offered you that one date.
That one date will probably also be on a previously scheduled exam date, your birthday, or Christmas.
|Yep. That stressful.|
As a med student, you're not getting paid to spend your nights in an on-call room or work twelve-hour days. In fact, you're paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans JUST TO GO TO WORK. Now you get to pay even more to travel around the country and put on a smiling song-and-dance routine for each residency program. We're talking flights, hotels, food, the whole nine, kids. You can sit at home, smirk, and say "but he's going to be a doctor! They're practically millionaires!" Sorry, dears, that's an outdated misconception. Derrick's so deep in all kinds of debt right now that it's going to take him about twenty years to claw his way out. Fan-bloody-tastic.
It's Like 19th Century Courtship from a Laura Ingalls Wilder Book... or Maybe a Complicated Mating Ritual on Animal Planet
|I didn't have a picture of a Laura Ingalls Wilder book on my hard drive...so let's just pretend this is a complicated mating ritual, shall we? For all I know, it is one.|
Spoiler alert: their program isn't drastically different than any other program in the country.
So you learn quickly to analyze the literature they provide in abundance for buzzwords. You slip in phrases like "diversity," "research opportunities," and "state-of-the-art technology." You smile a lot. You sell yourself. Meanwhile, your residency program is trying to sell their own program and convince you to go to their program. Then you get to repeat the whole damn process again. And again. And again. Rinse, repeat, smile and shake another hand.
It's a pretty sick-and-twisted form of courtship. You're each trying to convince each other that you're the hottest girl at the bar. In other cases, you're trying to convince each other that while there are certainly hotter girls at the bar, you're at least a better candidate than the one-eyed fat girl in the corner. The residency program buys you shots in an effort to convince you to go home with them: a mini-box of chocolates, a gift box of tea packets, a free backpack with the school mascot on it.
But the truly twisted part is still yet to come.
After the whirlwind interview process is over, you go home and you rank the programs. The residency programs rank you. You go up your list, they go down theirs. The NRMP uses a complicated algorithm to "match" you with a residency program.
"If the Millionare Matchmaker can do it, why can't the NRMP?" you ask. "How complicated can it really be?" Well, here's the "simple" explanation on how the Match Algorithm works.
(You got to the first set of charts and closed the link, didn't you? Yeah. So does everyone else.)
Here's the most horriblest, terriblest, awfulest part of it all:
Every soon-to-be doctor learns where they're going on the same day. At 1 PM EST, every 4th-year med student in the country opens up an envelope and discovers where they--AND their families-- are contractually obligated to go for the next three to five years of their life.
No choice. No choosing between three offers. No negotiation. If it was on your list, you can go there. If you ranked eleven schools, you're going to one of those eleven cities.
And you have no idea where... until 1 PM on Match Day.
This concludes the backstory behind Match Day Madness...to hear the rest of the story, which involves zany costumes and heavy drinking before 9 AM, you'll just have to hang in there. Tomorrow: Part One-- the Scramble. It's kind of like eggs...if the eggs are med students being scrambled in the burning fires of hell.