Match Day is a time for celebration at the 155 medical schools in the United States, as it marks the day residency and fellowship training positions are announced. Unfortunately, due to concerns about the spread of Covid-19, some of the planned activities are being canceled or scaled back to reduce the size of gatherings. Covid-19 concerns aside, nothing should dampen the overall celebratory feelings of the more than 44,000 fourth-year medical students who are anxiously awaiting their match results. After four years of late nights, long days, and hard work, medical students across the nation can finally see the sun rising on their future careers. In 2019, of the 44,000 registrants, more than 35,000 were matched to one of their choices.
While the majority of Match Day applicants receive a position to continue their medical training, there is a small percentage that does not get placed in one of the residency or training slots. How does that happen and what can be done? It’s important to understand the challenges the candidates you’ll be recruiting one day face. Let’s answer some questions medical students who are about to graduate — and who will eventually become the next generation of physicians — might have about Match Day and beyond.
Why is there a shortage of residency slots?
One of the major contributing factors directly relates to an Act of Congress. In 1997, as part of a Balanced Budget Act, Congress legislatively capped the number of residency training slots to be funded through Medicare. At the time, it helped to reduce the Medicare budget. Still, today’s physician shortage highlights the need for Congress to act with a greater sense of urgency. In 2016, 2017, and again in 2019, legislation was brought to the floor of both Houses of Congress to address the physician shortage through an expansion of residency slots. In each case, the bill stalled.
What’s next for those who don’t receive a match?
It doesn’t mean the end of their medical career, residency slots are still available. The National Resident Matching Program®, in association with the Association of American Medical Colleges and the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates, offer a joint Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP). This program allows applicants who didn’t match to a program of their choice to apply to residency positions that went unfilled after Match Day. To be eligible for SOAP, applicants must be registered for the Main Residency Match. Then, they must be eligible to enter graduate medical education on July 1, 2020, and be unmatched or partially matched on Monday of Match Week.
Not matching is just a temporary setback. Here’s what else can be done.
Medical school graduates have worked hard to get to this point and should know that not matching is only a temporary setback. The worst course of action would be to give up. There are steps that can be taken if match day and SOAP doesn’t work out. Clinical Work is an option. Typically, they won’t be able to participate in the direct care of patients, but that doesn’t mean they have to keep their clinical skills on the shelf for a year. One of the best ways graduates can stay close to the action and be involved is to work as a scribe for a medical practice. Practicing physicians will be grateful for any opportunity that frees them up to focus more on patient care and less on administrative activities.
Keeping graduates involved in the healthcare industry and on the path to becoming a physician is crucial. It is also beneficial for healthcare administrators to utilize educated and motivated individuals. Encourage graduates to focus on improving their skills, gaining clinical experience to enhance their resume, and help them get set up for a successful Match Day 2021.
Residency is a pivotal point on the path to becoming a physician and our best option for catching up with the demand for physicians. At Jackson Physician Search we work to support the hospitals and health systems across the nation that are training the next generation of physicians. If you need help recruiting residents or recruiting physician leaders to train residents, reach out to Jackson Physician Search today.