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Lives of Doctor Wives: SOAP Process

Friday, March 7, 2014

SOAP Process

A few months ago, I shared some advice on avoiding the SOAP.  Unfortunately, there will always be people who end up in the SOAP process.  So, I’m here to give some advice from a been there, done that perspective.

Match Week for us was supposed to be very different.  My husband was actually on an “off” rotation that week.  Thus, we were supposed to spend all of it celebrating.  Monday morning, I burned nervous energy getting ready to go out to lunch after we received the “You Matched!” email.  Since we did med school on the east coast, it was perfect to have the email arrive at noon.  My husband went to log in a few minutes early, thinking he’d just refresh it once noon hit, and I was with him.  However, the email came a couple minutes early, leaving him calling out that he hadn’t matched.  I told him he shouldn’t joke as I ran into the room.  Then, we began to deal with too many emotions to count.

A minute or two after noon, a list of all available positions in the SOAP was posted in the Registration, Ranking, and Results (R3) System.  We used those couple minutes to swallow our emotions because they weren’t helpful at that point.  There is literally a critical two hour window that requires many important decisions.  Once that list was posted, we selected 30 programs (the maximum) to apply to through SOAP.  Then, we grabbed our baby and headed in to talk with the dean over my husband’s class.  She gave us a little guidance and reassured us that we were on the right track with the programs we’d selected.  Just a couple minutes after 2 pm, we submitted those 30 applications through ERAS.

As I’d mentioned in my last post, we pursued Emergency and SOAPed into Family.  We had a few things going for us in the SOAP process that I’d mentioned in my earlier post—FM faculty letters, a good personal statement for FM, and good scores for being competitive in FM.  We wanted to SOAP into a family spot, so we applied to every opening within a few states in any direction (FM tends to prefer more local applicants), but we also applied for every open spot left at our home school.
Once the applications were  in, life became a waiting game.  Programs generally conduct phone interviews with their tops choice applicants.  With some programs, it was a somewhat casual process.  With others, a room full of people on speakerphone investigated my husband.  A couple students had residents call as well.  We kept a notebook ready, and my husband would repeat back pertinent details over the phone so that I could overhear and jot them down.  This process continued well into Monday evening and all day Tuesday.  In addition, my husband sat down with a program chair regarding a spot at our school and had to manage email correspondence.  Wednesday morning, there were a couple final calls trying to determine our interest level in particular programs.  We had 3 or 4 programs that we felt were serious about us as we waited for the first round of offers at noon.  No offers came.

At this point, the panic started to set in.  We were allowed to submit 10 more applications, so we did that immediately.  DON’T DO THAT!  You need to wait to see who still has openings at 2 pm before applying.  Half of our applications were wasted on programs with no spots left.  Once 2 pm hit, though, we noticed that 2 of the programs that expressed a sincere interest in my husband still had a spot left.  (This meant the program offered it to someone, but the student likely accepted a different offer.)  My husband immediately called the programs to let them know he was still interested.  Since that day, our program has let us know it was the best phone call my husband ever made.  It was that call that sealed the deal to offer the final spot to him.  Finally, at 3 pm, we had two offers in R3, and selected the one we wanted more.  Those were literally the roughest 51 hours of my life, but I am so grateful it didn’t last longer.  Had we not matched, there would have been three rounds of offers (9, noon, and 3) on Thursday and Friday to endure, with only 5 more applications being allowed on Thursday.

On Friday, we were still able to attend Match Day and received an envelope like everyone else.  However, we knew what was inside.  Also, the letter did not start with “You Matched!” like everyone else’s, but our gratitude at having a program was so high that we didn’t really care.  Friends struggled with being unhappy over where they matched; we were just grateful to be continuing on in our training.

Now, hopefully none of this information is necessary for anyone who reads this post.  However, you may know someone who does end up in the process.  What should you do or not do?  First and foremost, be a good friend.  This can be very traumatic.  Think about how you would respond to another crisis.  We forgot to eat most of those couple days.  My sister (who lived in another state) offered to order a pizza for us, and it was the most helpful and thoughtful thing anyone did.  Our family also learned that no news isn’t good news.  They didn’t hound us for updates, which we really, really appreciated.  We sent updates by mass text every few hours but didn’t really talk on the phone at all because we wanted the lines open for programs to call.

If it is you that is in the SOAP process, please take care of yourself.  I felt the need to be strong for my husband, so I didn’t let him see me cry.  However, it had to get out.  I took long, hot showers and just let my emotion melt away.  Tuesday night, my husband rushed out to Subway before they closed and came back with a redbox movie, too.  We needed that release to laugh and breathe.  Unfortunately, between the stress of the SOAP process, and our son having his first cold, we didn’t sleep more than a couple hours a night.  There were long, productive conversations in there, but we got so worn down that we both ended up sick by the end of the week.  

Perhaps most importantly, when you do get into a spot, celebrate!  Matching in the SOAP process didn’t feel as celebratory as if we’d matched to begin with, but we forced it.  We allowed my in-laws to treat us to our favorite restaurant the next time we saw them, and they insisted we really enjoy it.  I was very grateful for that.  

Looking back, I don’t know that I would change what happened.  We are in our ideal situation for residency and know that Family is a much better fit than Emergency for our long term goals.  My husband is happier with Family as well.  That week was horrible and still makes me queasy just to think about, but it got us to where we are now…and that makes me very grateful for the process.

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Blogger Becky said...

I probably could have written the exact post last year. The details of how his interviews and the scramble went for him were a bit different, but the emotions were there. It is such a mixture of relief that you know they have a position, but such disappointment at what they had been pursuing did not happen and it does change the course of your life. Like you, I am so thankful. His current program IM is much more suited to him and he loves it. I think the hard part is the feeling like you weren't quite 'good' enough to do what you wanted. I firmly believe that God was simply using the process to place my husband where He wanted him to be. And at the end of the day, we did celebrate and continue to. Great post!!

March 10, 2014 at 10:25 PM  

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