Friday, March 25, 2011

match (day) madness: part one -- the scramble

We left off yesterday after a lot of kvetching and general whining and some pictures of awkward dogs and cakes, right?

Great. We're all caught up, then.

For further reading, though--or even just to add to my credibility besides screaming "MATCH DAY IS HELL! MATCH DAY IS HELL!" over and over, you may want to check out this article by Time called "Match Day: Young Doctors in Hell." It's a quick and easy read, and it's review of a book called Match Day.

Match Day
Yes, someone actually wrote a book about it. It was written by Brian Eule, the significant other of a young woman facing her own Match Day fate. It actually brings me comfort to know I'm not the only deer-in-the-headlights writer standing on the sidelines with the urge to tell the world about this rare breed of cruel and unusual punishment.

So you already know the basic gist of Match Day, then. Med students rank their top residency programs. Residency programs rank their students. And on Match Day, you open up an envelope with your fate sealed inside. Literally.

God, I love it when cliches work in my favor.

 But there's a whole different torture that happens right before Match Day: the Scramble.

The Scramble: You Can't Make a Residency Program Without Breaking a Few Med Students
You've ranked your med schools. You have a cool, perfect list of where you want to go. You spend every night praying to the deity of your choice that you'll get your number one choice. Some of the choices on your list excite you. Some of them thrill you. And some of them absolutely terrify you. 
But in the back of your mind, you know that you might not match to any school at all. When that happens, it's every med student's nightmare. You have to scramble.
Am I taking the whole egg metaphor too far yet?

"Scrambling" is when you're left without a date on prom night. The algorithm didn't work in your favor. Maybe you ranked too few schools. Maybe you aimed too high or aimed too low. Whatever the reason, you have two days to figure out where you're going to end up for the next four years.

Yes, you read that right. Two days.

Scrambling doesn't necessarily mean you're a bad medical student. It just means that the stars didn't align in your favor. If your schools had three resident openings, and you were number four on everyone's list...well, then you scramble. You could be ranked #4 out of 4000 candidates....but if those three before you said "yes," you're SOL, my friend.

The same goes for medical schools. If they're left without filled spots, they're in the same hell as you are. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Residency Program Speed Dating.

It's Just Like Speed Dating...Except That Instead of One Awkward Night at Olive Garden, You're Going to Spend Four Years of Your Life With the One You Choose

So really, it's like Speed Betrothing.

At noon on Monday, you get one of two emails: "Congratulations, You Have Matched!" or "Contact us. Now."

The latter means it's Scramble Time.

Your phone and inboxes explode with desperate residency programs trying to schedule phone interviews with you. Suddenly, you're a med student who was just yesterday saying, "Oh, I only want to stay on the East Coast for my programs..." and you're taking calls from Kansas. Oregon. Minnesota. Michigan. Desperate times call for a desperate restructuring of your ideals, and this is your most dire hour.

So the girl with big dreams of NYC and DC is now interviewing in Oklahoma. The boy who wanted to stay close with his sick mom in Georgia is now interviewing for a school in Seattle. And the family who was praying to stay close to home so the wife could keep the job she loves and the kids wouldn't have to switch schools is now interviewing on the other side of the country.  Your life plans get smashed in one little day...and you've got two days to plan out where you're going next.

This scramble, made from eggs, crab meat, and leftover camping veggies,
was heated on the engine block.
Med students have got to be resourceful, y'all.

The Days Before the Scramble...

...are tense, sure, but they're nothing like afterwards. Before the Scramble, you're anxious. You're tense. You're a little snappy and you're definitely stressed. However, there's this small sense of "Why worry?" floating in the back of your mind. You know that you'll be at any one of the cities on your list....or anywhere in the country. You've got two obstacles on your plate--the Scramble and Match Day-- but the double focus makes it a little easier to get by. You'll either match or you won't. You'll scramble, or you won't.

If you scramble, your last few days before Match Day are going to be some of the busiest, most manic days of your life. If're in for three days of hellish purgatory, waiting for that one stroke of the clock that tells you your future.

Derrick didn't scramble.

This concludes Part One: the Scramble.
I know I promised some rowdy daydrinking, hair-bleaching, and Princess Zelda and Link playing beer-pong...and it's coming. I promise. Hang in there, darlins.


  1. Hope he gets his perfect match.

  2. So. . . .he didn't scramble so he gets to go where he wants????? I donngeddit.

    Just in case he gets stuck in hot humid southtexas, I want to let you know that we have beaches here. And air conditioning. And mojitos. And I can be your designated driver.

    Just in case.

  3. I've watched a few people go through this torment. They usually all come out of it ok, with few lasting scars visible. The mental scarring only begins here however.

    Residency is yet another way of weeding out the masochists from the normal people. But at least there's a Fellowship following that, if you want to specialize.
    Feel better now?
    Glad I could help.

    I hope the match goes well, for true.

  4. Sounds like a headache!

    Btw, I used the word "kvetch" in my post today. Funny :)

  5. Alright, I'm all caught up on this, and I'm AMAZED by what these people go through! It's crazy! But it makes me appreciate all the more the people who survive that monstrous process!

    Best of luck to Derrick. I hope he's matched as perfectly as possible.

  6. I hope Derrick gets his number one choice. *crosses fingers* Go Derrick, go!

    The Scramble sounds rather...stressful. I'm very happy for you and Derrick that he did not have to Scramble.

  7. This sounds suck-ariffic. I will add it to the list of reasons that being a doc isn't as great as one would imagine. THe hours suck, the school is brutal, the competition is cut-throat, and also, you have to be involved in poo and vomit a lot.

    It's fortunate for me that i am not even close to smart or driven enough to make it, either.

  8. It's becoming more clear to me why I've seen a few fathers move away from their families to go to med school. (Not being sexist here. I can't think of any mothers who have done this.) I've always just thought, "Why doesn't he just apply to the school down the street?"

    Plus, I keep thinking, "Most of the world doesn't know this is what happens to med students. Why hasn't Hollywood made a movie about this or shown us on Scrubs or something?"
    It Just Got Interesting

  9. "Derrick didn't scramble." I'm on pins and needles since this could go either way. O_O

    *chugs 'rita to calm anticipation*

  10. Good lord. This is kind of fascinating, in a train-wreck way. I had no idea - I knew being a med student was thankless, but I didn't know about this part.

  11. I had no idea being a med student is this... complicated!

    Dammit. I want Advil.

  12. Wow. I just read your last three posts in succession with my mouth hanging open in horror. I hate hate HATE not knowing what's going to happen. That would be like a four year pregnancy for me. I hope his belly is okay. Get him some pickles!

    I can't wait to hear the rest!

    (p.s. Yes. It's true. I AM internationally known as the hottie jetsetter. Good call.)

  13. Yay for Derrick not scrambling. Seriously that sounds absolutely terrifying! D:


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