What is Veterinary “Match Day?”
“Match Day” is one of the most dramatic days in veterinary medicine. At 8:00am on (usually) a February morning, veterinary students and doctors who have applied to post-graduation internships or specialty residencies learn where they will (or won’t) be spending the next year (in the case of internships) or three years (in the case of residencies). Almost every computer, tablet or smart phone in teaching institutions across the globe is occupied with a captive audience clicking “refresh.”
The match process – or Veterinary Internship & Residency Matching Program – is run by the American Association of Veterinary Clinicians. Starting in September, institutions offering programs submit them for review by potential applicants. Each program details their unique offerings and requirements for interns and residents:
- How many specialists are present in the hospital (FHA has 24), and which specialties do they represent?
- How many cases are seen at the hospital each year? (FHA sees 115,000+ cases per year!)
- How much time does an intern spend seeing emergent or hospitalized cases? (30%)
- Are overnight shifts required? (Yes)
- How many surgeries are performed daily at the hospital? (12)
- How many interns who have applied to residencies from the internship program have been accepted to residencies in the past 5 years? (A strong showing at 17 out of 18)
(You can see the description of Friendship Hospital for Animals’ rotating internship here.)
In December, it’s time for the applicants to show off. Transcripts and class ranks are submitted and resumes are updated. The question of who to ask a letter of recommendation from is always hanging in the air – should I ask someone who is well known, or someone who knows me better and has seen me at my best? Every applicant attempts to write an exciting but professional letter of intent that won’t put selection committees to sleep.
Once an applicant has applied to programs that they are interested in (anywhere from 1 to even 20-30!), interviews can start. Some programs do not have formal interviews, while others schedule phone or Skype interviews. If time allows, some applicants may travel to the hospital for in-person interviews. Certain programs have designated days for interviews. Interviews may range from casual to an on-the-spot case analysis by the applicant. This year, Friendship’s internship committee interviewed 207 applicants.
Next, the applicants and institutions rank their choices. Applicants often reach out to alumni of the program to get “the scoop.” Is it as good of a program as it seems? How is the mentorship? What is the case load like?
Institutions typically form committees to review the numerous applications and rank them according to several criteria. Were they a good student or intern? Do they communicate well? Are they a team player? Overall, is this someone that you would like to work with for the next one or three years?
The whole process culminates on that February morning.
My first Match Day I had no idea what to expect and was nervous that I wouldn’t match at all. I was so happy to be moving to Washington, DC for a year (and ultimately for much longer!); however, I had not seen the hospital as my interview for the program was over the phone. The butterflies leading up to the match were replaced with a whole new set of butterflies. Where should I live? Who were my intern-mates? What would the hospital look like? Never having worked in a private specialty hospital and only working in general practice up to that point. I had only experienced specialists in academia.
My second Match Day was very different. I had only applied to one program, so my chances of matching were statistically much lower. If I had not matched to an anesthesia residency, I planned to move back to Ohio to find a job in general practice or emergency medicine. That Match Day I was working with Dr. Shani Boone on the general surgery service. At 7:59am, she stood by my desk to ask if I wanted to learn a new surgical technique. I was torn; if I matched, I would have no need to learn advanced surgical techniques, but would be on the other side of the table for the rest of my life. If I did not match, then I would need to be ready to perform elective surgeries wherever I would find a job. She stood next to me tapping the desk. Yes or no? The answer was no, I would not need to learn the new technique because I had been accepted to an anesthesia residency at The Ohio State University. (Dr. Boone made me learn it anyway.)
As a resident, I was able to observe three more Match Days. There is triumph, excitement and, yes, sometimes tears. Later in the morning, programs who did not fill positions and applicants who did not match are sent one another’s information, and the “scramble” begins. Many phone calls are made, and offers are sometimes made on the spot after short interviews. After 24-48 hours, most of the open positions have been filled. Doctors start their new positions in June, and those in rotating internships have to decide by September whether or not to throw their hat in the ring again to pursue further training. Institutions watch their doctors progress through the year and reflect on their training program: what should we change for next year? Teaching rounds? Schedules? Orientation?
All of the work put into the Match, however, pales in comparison to the real work that begins after: the work of starting your practice as a doctor, and that of molding new graduates or new residents into the best doctors that they can be.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in February of 2015 and has been updated to reflect the most up-to-date statistical information and match day date.
Dr. Nicole Luensman leads Friendship’s Anesthesiology Department. She completed her internship at Friendship and returned after completion of her Anesthesiology residency at The Ohio State University. In addition to overseeing our anesthesia policies and protocols, she is certified in veterinary acupuncture.