Matching with a residency program is an exciting and stressful time. It’s important to keep your cool as you navigate this process, regardless of how the interview/rank order list season turns out for you. This period is a learning opportunity for potential residents and residency programs looking to make sure they match their applicants with their training environment.
Here are five tips that I’ve learned from my experience doing both sides of the rank order list game:
- Take Advantage of Your Training Environment and Help It Succeed
The last thing any residency program wants is to have an unhappy resident in its midst. But, unfortunately, you’re going to be spending up to seven years working (and potentially living) side by side with people who may not match your interests. For this reason, residency programs want to make sure their incoming residents will be a good fit for the program’s training environment and culture.
- Make Sure You Really Like the Residents
Ask interviewees about their colleagues and what it is like to work alongside them. Think about whether you want to spend hours upon hours with these people for years on end and ask yourself if you would still enjoy their company after a stressful night in the emergency department, a surprise half-day off on Christmas Eve, or an hour of rounds with the most senior attending of your program. If nothing else, you will be spending more time with your residency program’s residents than your own family, so make sure they are people you can tolerate being around all day long for several years before committing to training there.
- Investigate Your Potential Supervising Attending Physicians
The supervising physician is very important. Most people decide on a program based on their impression of the supervising attending physician as opposed to anything else, and for good reason: you are going to be learning from this person, working under their direction, and relying on them for career advice in many cases. It’s important to like your attending because strong relationships between residents and attendings are crucial to the training program (and clinical training experience) succeeding.
- Investigate Your Potential Fellow Trainees
A lot of applicants ignore fellow trainee information — with varying levels of regret later on. Find out who will be around when you would potentially match at the program and look into them; talk with them if possible, preferably while they’re still a trainee. Are they happy? Do they like the program? Ask what it’s like to work with some of the clinical attending physicians and how those relationships are developing. If you can, talk with residents who have already matched in your specialty at that program — how did they come to match there ultimately?
- Take Advantage of All Opportunities
Residency programs want trainees to be sure that they will be a good fit for the training environment if they choose their program. Programs value resident perspective on this question, which is why many use “exit surveys” to solicit feedback about whether or not someone would rank them highly during Match season and why many residency programs invite potential incoming residents to spend a day/week shadowing them when interview season rolls around.
You need to communicate to the residency programs considering you that they’re also a good fit for your future career goals and training environment expectations.
Residency programs want their new trainees to be excited about starting. They do not need an unhappy resident on their hands when Match Day comes along, so look through these tips and evaluate whether or not the residency program would be a good fit for you.