Match Day is one of the most anticipated days in a medical student’s life as it represents all the hard work endured and sacrifices made during training. It is a day mixed with excitement and anxiety; a day you truly feel like you’ve become a physician.
Try doubling the anticipation, anxiety, and excitement; try couples matching.
My husband, Matt Robinson, DO, and I met during a prep course our medical school offered a few weeks before actual classes started. We were in anatomy lab, and one of the first things I remember he ever said to me was, “Look at that olecranon fossa!” (To this day, I don’t know if he was actually impressed by the olecranon fossa or if he just didn’t know what to say because I was directly across from him!)
We started dating shortly thereafter, were engaged by second year of medical school, married during third year, and found ourselves couples matching our fourth year.
We did the NRMP match and both managed to match at our No. 1 residency choices in 2016. If you’re planning to couples match, here are our tips for you.
6 tips for success in the couples match
Be on time. Submitting applications on time may seem obvious. Interviews are given on a rolling basis, so if both you and your partner have a complete application submitted on the first day ERAS opens, you will have a better chance to secure interview spots. This is important whether you are entering the match on your own or with a partner.
Be proactive. You and your partner will find yourselves in a situation where one will receive an interview in a city or institution and the other won’t. When this happened to us, we would kindly email the directors of programs we hadn’t heard from and explain the situation. It wasn’t foolproof, but we were able to get interviews this way.
Just because you and your partner are couples matching, doesn’t mean that residency programs talk to each other. Also, if possible, try to rotate at an institution that has both of the specialties you and your partner are applying for. In our case, Matt was going for physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R) and I was going for pediatrics. We rotated at a hospital that had both specialties, loved it, and were able to interview there as well!
Apply broadly. Doing so will increase your chances of matching together. It’s okay to be picky, but also be realistic. We applied to almost every state where our specialties were offered. This was expensive, but worth it!
Expect the unexpected. What if couples matching doesn’t go the way you and your partner planned? What if you and your partner end up in different cities? In our case, we ended up having to do our intern years three hours apart.
Matt’s top choice PM&R program didn’t have an intern year attached to it, so that added another layer of complexity to our rank list. We needed to rank his intern year separately.
He matched into his intern year about three hours away from our top-choice programs. Despite this setback, we stayed positive, we made it work, and that year allowed us to grow stronger as physicians and as husband and wife.
Highlight your strengths. Because we were entering different fields of medicine, Matt and I had very different personal statements that reflected our individual strengths, stories, and experiences.
Residency programs will already know that you’re couples matching because the ERAS application reports it; however, residency programs also want to know what you have to offer as an individual.
Keep it lighthearted. Have fun by trying to schedule interviews together as much as possible! We made each interview trip an adventure by exploring different eateries and sightseeing. We would also practice interview questions the night before and wake up early together to support each other. That definitely helped ease our nerves!
‘An exciting time’
Matt and I are now finishing residency together. I will be graduating next year and pursuing a career in general pediatrics while Matt has one more year to finish and is planning on applying to a pain management fellowship. Our rank list consisted of roughly 77 combinations, but we ended up matching to our No. 1 choices because of our perseverance.
Matching is a nerve-wracking process, but having someone to do it with actually took the edge off and made it an exciting time. Whether you are solo or couples matching, I wish you the best of luck, and hope you have some fun along the way!