So Match Day 2019! It will soon be upon us! For some, the mere anticipation of this life changing day brings a joy and excitement of what’s to come. But for others, Match Day just adds coals to a boiling, hot lava of anxiety and uncertainty that’s sitting in the pit of their dark and emptying worry-warrior spirit.
Let’s face it, we’re all kind of nerds and overachievers. In order to reach this one big day, you’ve sacrificed our youth, social life, and innocence. The day that a complex, incomprehensible algorithm somewhere in the depths of AAMC offices determines the next steps in our career as physicians. To help prepare you for the arrival of that glorious, life-altering moment, here are four tips that will hopefully get you through the big day.
If It’s Not Your Thing, Then Just Avoid All the Hoopla
So every school has some sort of weird tradition when it comes to the Match Day ceremony. Whether you’re reading your new residency program in front of a room full of peers, family, and friends, or quietly seated and opening an envelope with your classmates and faculty surrounding you, the associated anxiety can be a bit much for some people. If you’re a part of that cohort of antisocial glossophobic medical students, and your Match Day ceremony doesn’t seem like something that’ll be more painful than joyful, then stay the hell away from it! Maybe a better alternative is hosting your own private Match Day ceremony. Go to your favorite park or enclave in a peaceful garden. Have brunch with your loved ones and friends. Buy your favorite food as a potentially celebratory or brooding meal. Do whatever it takes to make that moment special and digestible for you. It doesn’t have to be big, it just needs to be positive and supportive. (Whatever that specifically means to you.)
Stop Comparing Yourself to Everyone!
For the love of God, if you go to Student Doctor Network one more time about it, I will hurt you! (I can’t and don’t want to actual physically harm you, but you get the idea.) Kind of like that movie "He’s Just Not That Into You," you will always find someone with that crazy fairy tale story who matched into their number one program which happens to also be the top-rated program in the galaxy for that super niche, high-earning potential subspecialty. And, just as easily, you can fall down the rabbit hole imagining yourself in the worst possible place on earth. Hopefully, someone gave you the advice to not rank any program you couldn’t actually imagine receiving your residency training from. (And if you didn’t then see tip #4.) Find some nice, time occupying activities to keep your fingers and mind busy (and away from places that will just leave you feeling more anxious) until the big day comes.
Remind Yourself Why You Went to Medical School
Before the big day comes, it’s just nice to reaffirm why you’re going through all this grief and anxiety in the first place. Make a list of all the positive. Go and hang out in your favorite clinical setting. Read your favorite clinical tex book, journal, or editorial. Get amped up about the prospect of being someone actual, real life doctor in the coming weeks. Let the joy of healing and medicine wash over you. Find some sort of connection between the place you want to be (your dream job with a medical degree) and where you are now (at the bottom of the totem pole as a medical student). Grounding yourself in the realization that you are coming to the end of part one of your journey in medicine will help you see just how small Match Day is in the grand scheme of your medical career.
Keep an Open Mind
I’ve saved the best and most important point for last. No matter what program name is staring back up at you when you open that envelope or email, cliché as it may sound, it is meant to be. Whether it’s a step up or sideways into a top tier program or a big leap into an all new experience at a small program, as long as it is an ACGME accredited program you’ll gain the skills necessary to launch you into the next part of your career. Feel whatever it is you want to feel in that moment about the program, but at the end of the day it’s a step forward towards that dream job you thought of after Tip #3. And if you’ve found yourself without a residency training position, even that too is where your path is medicine is meant to wind towards. Take the time to re-explore your motivations for pursuing medicine, science, the art of healing. Take advantage of a year to unabashedly pursue something without the weight of the rigors of med school on your back and come back stronger and better for the next application cycle. Or explore a different use for your MD degree. The disappointment that comes with going unmatched will eventually fade. After you’re done feeling the disappointment that comes with not meeting an expectation you made for yourself, take a step back and figure out your trailblazing, trendsetting and unique game plan for how to get back on track towards achieving your goal.
As you try and prepare yourself for the strange and magical, emotion-filled day, just find a way to stay grounded and come out of the experience knowing that, regardless of what the Match Day fairy has in store for you, you will be fine. Find some way to celebrate that you’ve made it this far in your medical career. And get ready for the next plunge into the abyss that is graduate medical education!
Dr. Chioma Udemgba is a third-year Med-Peds resident physician currently training at Tulane University in New Orleans, LA. She is passionate about creative writing, graduate medical education, and working with underserved populations. Dr. Udemgba is a 2018–2019 Doximity Author.
Illustration by Jennifer Bogartz