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Lives of Doctor Wives: If I knew a year ago what I know now, our residency application process would have been much different.

Friday, December 6, 2013

If I knew a year ago what I know now, our residency application process would have been much different.

If I knew a year ago what I know now, our residency application process would have been much different.  Of course, I’m now glad we didn’t know…but you should.

You see, a year ago my husband and I were waiting on Step Two scores to come in and working on his application for emergency medicine residencies.  Based on past years, the only concern we had for this specialty was a Step One score on the low end of acceptable.  But, he had experiences that far made up for it.  We were absolutely positive that if he did well on Step Two, we would have our pick of programs.  And, he did more than fine!  We celebrated Step Two for several days because his score was that good.  With a sigh of relief, we sent out applications and began to dream of the future.  We thought matching in emergency was a done deal based on what we knew from past years. 

Lesson One: Be wary of trusting statistics from past years—with changing specialties, these can be unreliable!

Unfortunately, a funny thing happened with EM last year.  It was suddenly very competitive.  We just weren’t getting the interview offers we expected.  But, we got the two that we wanted most—our home school and the program my husband auditioned with.  We actually turned down one more interview because it required a plane ticket, rental car, and missing a day of the audition rotation.  (It actually turned out he had the day off…whoops!) 

Lesson Two: Don’t turn down an interview for any reason unless there is absolutely no way to avoid it!

Another friend of ours applied to dozens upon dozens of programs.  He of course, received many, many offers.  He really wanted to be somewhere different and exciting.  He could only accept less than half the offers because of time constraints.  So, he accepted the offers in the biggest cities and declined most of the less competitive programs.  In the end, he matched at our home school—the only smaller city school he interviewed with and the very bottom of his very long rank list
Lesson Three: Make sure you are interviewing where you are most likely to be accepted.

When it came down to the final weeks of interviews, the advisors at my husband’s school began sending emails asking students to come in immediately if they’d only had a small number of interviews.  We discussed this but still felt confident with our plan.  In fact, we agonized over which of our two programs to rank first.  Both had given strong indications that we shouldn’t be worried about Match.

 Lesson Four: Listen to your advisor, meet with your advisor, and trust your advisor.  And, get a new one if yours isn’t very helpful!

As you can probably guess by now, we SOAPed.  While it was the worst thing that could have happened at the time, I am actually grateful that it did.  You see, we had almost applied for Family Medicine slots as well.  My husband was very torn between the two specialties.  But, after seeing the Step Two score, we didn’t do it.  In the end, we ended up SOAPing into a Family slot.  The program is fantastic, we love the town, and my husband realizes how grateful he is to be in family instead of emergency.  We like where we are and what we are doing more than anything we’d actually applied for.   

Lesson Five: Don’t be afraid to apply for two specialties.  It’s not extremely difficult and is much better than the SOAP process!

Thankfully, we had a couple things that helped us tremendously with the SOAP process—my husband’s personal statement and a letter of recommendation from a family physician.  He knew from the time he wrote his statement it that it could be used for either Emergency or Family Medicine.  The letter just happened to come during his sub-internship.  During the SOAP process, you can only use the materials you already have saved in ERAS.  So, he would have had no chance to write and load a family medicine personal statement to help him out.  And, there was really only one EM slot he could have tried to get into.  As it gets closer to Match Week, I’ll be back to discuss more specifics of what you need to know about the SOAP process.  But for now, know I want to share one last bit of advice.  

Lesson Six: If you think there is even the slightest, smallest possibility you might SOAP, consider having a personal statement that could help you into an open slot…and maybe even a letter from a faculty member outside the specialty for which you are applying.

I really don’t want this post to scare anyone, but I want to share the wisdom that we gained through the process.  Also, I’ll be glad to answer and specific questions, too!

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Blogger DeWitts said...

Thank you. Having scrambled here I can agree with you on all accounts. Just to emphasize, if there is a specialty that comes in as a close second to the first for DrH, write a PS for it and apply to a few programs EARLY in the application process. Doing so after a poor score, failed score, change of heart on favorite specialty, or lack of interviews for choice 1 looks disingenuous. Never hurts to have a Plan B in place.
Having said that, we too came through the scramble with a position much better than we ever could have planned for.

December 7, 2013 at 10:16 AM  
Blogger Ash said...

Not going to lie...a little scared. :/ But I don't know if there's a way not to be. When it's all said and done we will have 14 EM interviews under our belt. I guess we'll see. T minus 102 days!

December 8, 2013 at 5:59 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Kee said...

I'm really thankful for these residency process posts. My husband is currently an M2 and I've already been wondering about all of this. Thank you!

December 9, 2013 at 9:49 AM  

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