Half MD: How to fix the scramble before Match Day

The following is reader take by Half MD.

The third Thursday of March each year is Match Day for fourth-year medical students. There are many smiles and frowns made on this day when soon-to-be doctors discover where they will obtain their first job to continue their medical training. While Match Day is the most famous day of the week, Monday and Tuesday are the most nerve-racking.

At noon on Monday, everyone who is participating in the Match will receive an e-mail stating whether or not he/she secured a position for the following year. Those who did not match will then enter the scramble on Tuesday. At noon on this day, a list of all of the nation’s unfilled programs will be released and applicants will try desperately to call and e-mail these programs in an attempt to secure a job. They will also fax and electronically submit their application to any place that sounds remotely interesting. Interviews will be conducted over phones. Deans and department chairs will call in favors from friends known long ago. Of the more than one thousand unfilled positions available during the scramble, over half of them will be taken within four hours.

Participants in the scramble are forbidden from contacting programs prior to noon on Tuesday. Since this is also the time at which the list of unfilled programs is released, participants and their friends will make a mad dash to apply to and contact as many programs as possible in a short amount of time. While there are varying degrees of organization between each group participating in the scramble, when done poorly, the result looks like a frantic day on the New York Stock Exchange with medical students running in circles and yelling, “Buy! Buy! Buy! Sell! Sell! Sell!”

In an effort to bring some organization to the scramble, I suggest the following changes:

1. On Monday at noon, applicants should receive the Did I Match? e-mail. Also, the list of unfilled programs should be released at this time.

2. Applicants should use the ERAS system to apply to these unfilled programs. Applications should not be accepted by fax, e-mail, or telephone, and no one will be allowed to contact programs or vice versa until Tuesday.

3. Tuesday should be reserved for telephone interviews. No spots may be offered during this time.

4. Applicants and programs will submit new rank lists to the National Residency Match Program early on Wednesday morning. The computers at NRMP will then compute a second Match. At noon, participants will receive a second Did I Match? e-mail. If they did not Match a second time, then the scramble will open.

5. At noon on Thursday all participants in both Match I and Match II will discover where they are going for residency.

Half MD is a medical student and blogs at Half MD.com.

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