While Cleveland (my hometown) is historically known for The Drive, The Fumble, The Shot, and most recently The Decision, I thought I would discuss my most recent experience with The Match, The Scramble, and The Residency.
If you know me at all, you know I've been talking about doing a health-system pharmacy administration (HSPA) residency since 2009. This was the summer I spent as an intern at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and was, for the first time, exposed to what HSPA residents do with their time in the health-system and in the classroom. I did my homework for the next 2 years to prepare for the Match process. I attended 3 Midyear Clinical Meetings and 2 Summer Meetings and tried to meet as many people as I could who would shape my progress in a positive way.
I turned in 9 applications this year and received only 4 interviews. This was a little discouraging to start with, but I had to move forward. I was given good advice from a mentor who told me: They did you a favor by determining that you weren't the right fit. It saved you money. This was quite true. When it came time to submit my rank list, I submitted all 4. Looking back now, I should have only ranked 2 of them. My nerves got the best of me because I had decided it was better to match anywhere than nowhere at all. After everything I've learned about the residency application process, this was my biggest error in judgement. If you think you're questioning a site, don't ignore it and rank it anyway.
On March 21st, 2012 I got an email from the National Matching Service (NMS) and all it said was: We regret to inform you that you did not match to a position. Seriously? All that work and I didn't match? Luckily I had taken the day off from rotation and had time to process what this meant. The time span from 8:42AM (when I got the email) until noon (when unmatched residency positions are posted) was not fun. There were many tears shed while on the phone with my Mom, Dad, Stepmom, best friend (who also didn't match), etc. They all kept telling me: it wasn't meant to be... something I didn't want to hear.
At noon I jumped on to the NMS website to look at the unmatched list and the numbers weren't in my favor. There were only 5 unmatched positions for HSPA residencies. I emailed and called the first few right away. Sent my CV and a general letter of intent. My phone calls were brief, but mostly just stated that I hadn't matched and I was sending my information over ASAP. At about 12:15PM I got a phone call from Scott Knoer about the Cleveland Clinic's unmatched HSPA positions. At first I didn't believe it. The Cleveland Clinic was somewhere I hadn't applied because it was a new program and I knew tons of students were interested. Plus, my initial thought was it was too close to home. Before I knew it, I had accepted an interview with them the next day. I was lucky enough to have a flexible preceptor who understood what I needed to do.
As I prepared for my 30 minute interview I realized that I had to sell myself fast to get one of their positions. I tried to be as upfront, to the point, and honest as I could be. I made sure they knew I was going to work harder at residency than I had ever worked in my life. I made sure they knew I was committed and goal oriented. My interview was unbelievable and by the next day, I had a residency offer!
Maybe things do happen for a reason (all religious implications aside). Remember how I said my best friend didn't match? Well, she scrambled and found an awesome PGY1 at Borgess Medical Center in Kalamazoo, Michigan and she couldn't be happier. Looking back she's realized that she didn't like any of the 3 places she ended up ranking and she is SO glad she didn't match. Ironic, right?
So with this, I live advice to future residency candidates:
- Don't doubt your gut... and I really mean that. If you have the slightest ounce of doubt, really think about what that means. No programs are perfect, but the one for you will get you REALLY excited.
- Be optimistic and calm your nerves. Remember, things happen for a reason.
- Be honest. I think I spent too much time trying to figure out what my interview panels wanted to hear instead of what I actually thought. This was to my detriment because I didn't show my true colors.
- When it comes to scrambling, be quick and persistent. My best friend had sent her CV to the program contact but when she called again the next day, they told her that person was out sick and to send it to someone else. Good thing she double checked!
- At the same time, don't be annoying!
- Accept any interview offer you can get during the scramble. You never know what's going to be a good fit.
- Realize there is a challenge to phone interviews and that you won't get the full experience that you did at other interviews.
- Keep family and friends in the loop so they can help emotionally support you during a stressful time.
Congrats to everyone, especially my friends and ONU classmates, who got a residency this year. Best of luck to next year's candidates!