July 1

Today is the day I start my blog. Because today is the day I was supposed to start residency. That’s what happens when you finish medical school in Canada: you start residency July 1. For most of us anyway.

I should begin with a little about why I’m not with the rest of my classmates. This isn’t going to be a post about what I did and the choices I made that put me in this position (that will come), but just the basics of the system in case someone, who doesn’t know how medical training works in Canada, stumbles across this.

Training to be a doctor is a long road. Most of us have an undergraduate degree at a minimum before we are accepted into medical school. And then we have 4 packed years of lectures and working on wards and in clinics when we slowly grow into little mini doctors. We run around hospitals in our short white coats, studying in call rooms, sustaining ourselves on crackers and peanut butter, and being woken at 2am to help with a delivery or hearing “Code Blue” called over the speakers. It’s demanding, exhausting, and at times demoralizing. But it’s also amazing, exhilarating, and I would do it all over without blinking an eye.

But as stressful as it is trying to learn all this knowledge and being in charge of our patients’ health and lives (albeit with MULTIPLE safe guards between us and any real decisions), there is the added stress that by early in our fourth year, we have to have figured out what type of doctor we want to be for the rest of our career. This means applying to residency programs and this is where CaRMS comes in.

CaRMS, or Canadian Residency Matching Service, is a third party service that facilitates residency programs and medical students meeting each other and agreeing to train and be trained respectively. Medical students pick which programs they apply for, residency programs pick which students they want to interview, interviews happen and each party submits a list of their preferences. Then on “Match Day”, everyone logs into CaRMS and finds out which program they have matched to. And it is a legally binding contract and for better or for worse, you are stuck: you matched to psychiatry in Edmonton? You are moving to Edmonton to train to be a psychiatrist. That’s it.

Okay, that’s not it. That’s a majorly over simplified version of it. But that’s essentially how it works. And it works pretty well! 2838 Canadian Medical Graduates from 2016 participated in The Match this year and the VAST majority match to their first or second choice of speciality. In fact, only 77 people went unmatched.

I am one of the 77 unmatched doctors.

Obviously this is a break in my training I never expected and never wanted. But here I am: I have a year off, and I have to figure out what to do with it. I know this is going to be a hard year, and I would give anything to not have to go through residency interviews again. But in a weird way I’m looking forward to it: medical training is such a regimented process in Canada that hopefully I can use this break to take a breath, examine life, and come out the other end better for it.

Here’s to staying optimistic.

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