Resident Match Day, OSU and Beyond!

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What is Match Day?

If you live in Columbus you have probably heard of resident match day. Simply put, it is the process of securing a residency placement. It's completed using the National Resident Matching Program's (NRMP) Main Residency Match. This system places medical students into US residency programs based on a litany of criteria.

1. When is Match Day?

Match Week takes place during the third week in March each year. On Monday of that week, students learn whether they’ve matched with a residency program—but they don’t yet find out where they have matched. This match status notification is sent by email at 10am ET.

Match Day occurs on the Friday of Match Week. The time between the match status notification and Match Day is structured to allow unmatched applicants the opportunity to apply and interview for unfilled spots. Then, at 12pm ET on Friday, everyone’s match results are officially released.

2. What happens on Match Day?

While match results are released via email on Match Day, most MD programs hold some sort of Match Day ceremony. The structure of this event will vary based on the school, but it’s common for there to be speeches and a celebratory meal.

Certain schools may formally announce each student’s match during this ceremony. In other cases, the school may hand out envelopes for students to open individually.

3. What should you wear to Match Day?

Many treat their Match Day ceremony like a graduation. It’s a monumental moment in your journey toward becoming a physician—a time to celebrate all the hard work you’ve put in thus far, as well as the plans you’ve set into motion for your future. Specifics will vary from school to school, but students often wear business casual attire: slacks, nice shirts, skirts, or dresses.

4. Can you bring guests to Match Day?

In most cases, MD programs are happy to allow graduating students to invite their loved ones to their Match Day ceremony. But it’s always best to look into the guidelines set by your school.

With that in mind, the prospect of bringing guests along on Match Day is entirely up to you. For some, it’s an opportunity to celebrate with family and friends. For others, the idea of loved ones looking on as they learn the high-stakes results of their residency match can seem too overwhelming.

5. Do you have to go to Match Day?

At most institutions, attendance at Match Day ceremonies is not mandatory. Regardless of any events your school is planning, all applicants receive their match results via email on Match Day. If you’re unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict, for example, you’ll still have the opportunity to access your results at the same time as everyone else.

That said, some students are wary about attending their Match Day ceremony simply because they don’t like the thought of learning their match results in front of a room full of people. This is ultimately a personal decision you get to make, but it’s worth remembering that you’ll already know whether you secured a residency spot prior to the ceremony. No matter which specialty or program you match into, it’s still an accomplishment worth celebrating.

Questions about your Match Day results

6. Do you have to accept your match?

Once you’ve reached this point in the process, you’ve entered into a legally binding agreement. To register for the Match, participants are required to electronically sign The Match Participation Agreement. This includes a Binding Match Commitment, which states that programs and applicants are contractually obligated to offer and accept a position if a match occurs.

That being said, waivers can be requested under certain circumstances, such as unanticipated serious and extreme hardship, change of specialty, or ineligibility. If a waiver is granted, an applicant may interview for and accept a position in another program—or participate in a future Match. If a waiver is not granted, however, the applicant is expected to honor the binding commitment.

7. Can you change residencies after matching?

Despite the fact that you’ve entered into a contractual agreement to fulfill your resident duties if you match, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be locked into that residency position for the next four years.

Anyone who matches is required to remain in the training program for at least 45 days after their contract takes effect. Failing to do so could prevent the applicant from being able to re-enter the Match. The American Medical Association (AMA) notes that transfer-seekers in that situation are largely on their own.

If you begin your residency and find that you’re dissatisfied with the program, seeking a change in specialty, or have a need to relocate for a more personal reason, it is possible to transfer from one residency program to another. But it’s worth keeping in mind that the process of landing a new residency position can be very different than your original matching experience.

The Match is a streamlined process that is designed to move things along swiftly with the use of its electronic framework. When seeking a transfer position without it, you’ll be tasked with managing much of that paperwork and planning for yourself.

You’ll also need to hunt down openings and travel for residency interviews based on those programs’ timelines. (The AMA Residency & Fellowship Database is a good resource to use when searching for open residency job postings.

All the while, you’ll still need to perform the duties of your existing residency. The AMA points out that this process is much like looking for a new job while still doing the old one. This is why it’s critically important to craft your rank order list strategically—try not to include any programs you wouldn’t be happy to match with.

8. What is a “Match Violation”?

The aforementioned Match Participation Agreement doesn’t only include guidelines related to honoring match results. There is a Match Code of Conduct that participants are held do, which means there are a number of other ways students can violate their match agreements.

Residency programs are held to their own code of conduct, but guidelines for participants include the following:

  • Maintain ethical behavior during recruitment
  • Fully disclose information pertinent to programs
  • Respect a program’s right to privacy and confidentiality
  • Limit post-interview communication
  • Rank and match with integrity

Examples of potential match violations include contacting programs outside the appropriate time windows, accepting a position outside of the Match, and, of course, not honoring your match results. Repercussions for violating the Match Participation Agreement vary depending on the infraction, but typically involve suspension from the Match system for a specified period of time

9. What if you don’t match?

Around five percent of US allopathic medical school graduates do not match anywhere. If you receive notification on the Monday of Match Week that you didn’t end up matching, however, you’re not completely out of options.

As mentioned above, unmatched applicants can spend the time between their notification email and Match Day seeking out unfilled positions. This is done through the NRMP’s Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP).

SOAP provides a uniform system for programs to offer unfilled residency positions to eligible unmatched candidates through a series of offer rounds during Match Week. There is no additional registration needed to participate in this program—those who are registered for the Match are automatically verified as eligible.

There are three SOAP rounds during Match Week during which unmatched students and residency programs work to fill vacant spots. In most cases, unfilled programs will contact applicants by telephone or email, followed by a brief telephone or video interview.

It’s often recommended to expand your horizons if you find yourself unmatched. It can help to look beyond the criteria of your original rank list or even consider pursuing another specialty. Some students in this situation may opt to seek out “transitional year” residency positions.

Traditionally, the first year of residency is considered your “preliminary year” and it focuses on skills related to a specific area of practice. In contrast, a transitional year provides residents with a more well-rounded experience, rotating through various specialties for short periods of time to gain exposure to numerous different types of medical care.

No matter what, if the Monday of Match Week comes along and you find that you haven’t matched anywhere, you need to remember that you still have options. If you’re unsure about your next steps, it’s best to connect with your academic advisor and map it out together.

10. What happens after Match Day?

Once the excitement of Match Week has dwindled down and you’ve secured a residency position, you won’t be able to jump into the next phase of your physician training quite yet. Most medical students have some coursework and/or exams to finish up before graduation. Even if you’ve already matched, don’t let your focus slip—you still want to finish medical school strong.

This is also when you’ll begin thinking about what’s to come. It’s common for medical school grads to relocate to complete their residencies, so you’ll need to secure living arrangements and start planning your move. It’s also smart to look ahead and plan out your medical residency budget.

Residency is a full-time job, and while you will receive a salary for this work, you may not have time for much else. With that in mind, it’s strongly recommended that you make the most of your free time between medical school and residency. Life as a resident physician is fast-paced, hectic, and very busy. There will be plenty of long shifts ahead, so if you have a desire to travel, spend time with loved ones in your hometown, or do anything else that will take up a good chunk of time, it’s smart to plan to do it sooner rather than later.

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