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Stressed-Out Week for Medical Students Culminates in Match Day

A woman is covering her face while sitting at a desk.

​The tweets came flying in during this "Match Week" as some medical school students who will soon be graduates exulted that they'd learned they'd been matched with a residency program, though they wouldn't know which one until "Match Day," March 17. Others aired disappointment at not matching with any programs. Match Day can be a stressful time for students and their families, all of whom may be juggling jobs while refreshing their e-mails and text messages. Here are some tips on helping employees manage the stress.

Mixed Emotions

During Match Week, held the third week of March, M.D. students find out on Monday if they matched with a medical residency program or not. If they did match, they find out on Friday at noon ET where they matched.

One M.D. tweeted: "I am sorry and wish everyone strength this week. I went #UNMATCHED. I am actively looking for a research opportunity. If anyone has any leads or leaving their old jobs, kindly lmk!"

There also were some words of encouragement, such as this from another M.D.: "To the #unmatched applicants: THIS ISN'T OVER. Looking backwards, not matching last year was probably for the best. I see it now as a learning experience that brought me incredible things. Don't give up!"

M.D. students who don't match on Monday have three options, according to an Association of American Medical Colleges article: Go through the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP) and possibly match into a different specialty, do a research year, or do a transitional year in general surgery. SOAP provides a uniform system for programs to offer unfilled positions to eligible unmatched or partially matched applicants through a series of offer rounds, maximizing the number of applicants obtaining a position before Match Day.

What Is The Match?

The National Resident Matching Program (NRMP), or The Match, is a private, nonprofit organization established in 1952 at the request of medical students to provide an orderly and fair mechanism for matching the preferences of applicants for U.S. residency positions with the preferences of residency program directors. 

The 2023 Main Residency Match includes 42,952 applicants who certified a rank order list to fill a record 40,375 positions.

Match Week concludes on Match Day, which is when, in addition to residency applicants learning where they matched, programs learn the results of the matches.

Helping Stressed-Out Workers

As students and their families wait for news on their matches, they may feel stress.

Employee assistance programs (EAPs) are "no-brainers" and can help workers at times like these, said Phyllis Hartman, president of PGHR Consulting Inc. in the metropolitan Pittsburgh area.

If there's a stressful time that managers know about, like Match Week or Match Day, managers could ask how their employees are doing. The important thing is for managers to have built up trust with employees over time. It's not something that can suddenly happen, she said.

"Be empathetic and listen as much as you can," Hartman said. Hopefully, employers learned during the pandemic to do this and to also be flexible, she added.

Maybe an employee needs to take the afternoon off if they can't concentrate because of stress. But at some point, the employer must draw the line rather than listen to a worker's troubles ad nauseam.

If workers are feeling upset or worried about the results of Match Day, Hartman said EAPs can be a big help at no cost to employees.

Communicate the importance of EAPs on an ongoing basis and let workers know they shouldn't hesitate to reach out to HR, said David Epstein, director of human resources and talent strategy with Mobilization for Justice Inc. in New York City and a certified wellness practitioner. Employees should be provided with reminders of the importance of taking regular breaks, he added.

Employees are always in a better place to serve customers when they aren't stressed out, he noted. "Taking care of employees is a leadership responsibility," Epstein said.


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