Ten Years Later: Scrambling was Definitely NOT the End of the World

"Out of every crisis comes the chance to be reborn, to reconceive ourselves as individuals, to choose the kind of change that will help us to grow and to fulfill ourselves more completely." - Nena O'Neill

It doesn't seem possible, but this spring it will be 10 years since I went through the residency Match and ended up scrambling for my internship spot. At the time, the scrambling experience was a monumental life crisis. For the tenth year anniversary of this event, I decided to revisit an article that I had written about the experience [1] and confirm what I knew then: that it was not the end of the world.

On some level, I instinctively knew that I wouldn't match. Prior to the Match, many of my classmates had received some confirmation from their program choices that they had been ranked highly, practically guaranteeing them a spot. I had not. I had chosen a highly competitive specialty --obstetrics and gynecology -- and restricted my interviews to California programs. I had handicapped my chances of a successful match from the start. In hindsight, considering the number of programs where I interviewed and the number of applicants, my odds might have been better at winning the lottery.

On the day prior to the Match Day, when those who do not match are notified, I still hadn't heard anything by 11 a.m. I thought I was in the clear, but gnawing doubts caused me to call my medical school.

"I was just calling to check. . . What, you're glad that I called? You were getting ready to call me? Why?. . . You needed to let me know that I didn't match. . . "

I didn't match.

Unspoken Fear of Not Finding a Match

The words echoed in my head. The unspoken fear of not matching, a subject so unpleasant that no one ever discusses it, was now my reality. This was only supposed to happen to those at the bottom of the class. I was stunned, numb. I could barely register the instructions given to me.

It wasn't supposed to happen this way. I'd worked too hard and sacrificed too much for too many years. I should have been rewarded, not punished. So much time, money, and effort applying and interviewing for everything to end like this. Then the doubts emerged. How would I restore my shattered self-esteem to make it through the Scramble the following day? Perhaps this was a sign that I wasn't meant to be a physician, a confirmation of my deepest fears that getting into medical school had been an accident, a fluke.

The afternoon passed in a blur, calling family and a few friends to tell them the news, to get some support and much needed encouragement. Somehow in the midst of this turmoil, I remembered a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." Now all I needed to do was to find some new dreams. I spent the night mulling over my options:

  1. Postpone graduating and reapply the following year.
  2. Take a one-year transition or preliminary year position.
  3. Finish medical school and see what job options existed with just a medical degree. (Author Michael Crichton seemed to have done pretty well.)
  4. Quit altogether.

 

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