Awaiting Match Day

From chaos to simplicity: The waiting game before Match Day

You finally submitted and certified your rank list … now what?


During the initial stages of COVID quarantine and lockdowns, one silver-lining theme emerged: Less is more. Many of us learned how much we were doing that we did not need to do—things like commuting in traffic and overspending. So much came to a screeching halt within a matter of days.

And while many patients, friends, families, and colleagues suffered significant challenges, we were all forced to slow down and focus on what matters most, even those who continued working. This new, stripped-down world existed for many months.

The gift of being in this space was an opportunity to see what truly mattered. For many of us in medicine, relationships with family and friends became more important. We were finally given the time to focus on what mattered most.

Now, we are seeing our lives start to “creep” back to how they were. Many have returned to working in-person, commuting, and getting back into states of busyness and continued “doing.” For the Match, balancing the flurry of activities for residency interviews with scheduling and rotations can be overwhelming, even if most interviews are still virtual.

Certify your rank list

Regardless, in a few short weeks, this year’s applicants will certify their rank order lists, bringing this portion of the Match process to a close. As a reminder, your rank list needs to be completed by Feb. 28. After you complete this step, you will be able to congratulate yourself: You’ve submitted and certified your rank list, you did it! And you’ll gain the gift of time, now that you no longer need to focus on residency applications, interviews, and follow-ups.

The gift of time

So, I invite you to consider adopting some of the paradoxical gifts that slowing down during COVID has offered us. This concept, although quite foreign to many of us, is a more common word or phrase in other languages. “Niksen” is the Dutch art of doing nothing. “Dolce far niente” in Italian essentially translates to the pure sweetness of doing nothing.

Take a few items off your shopping and to-do lists. Take a few moments, even right now, to practice the art of taking a few moments to just breathe—and do nothing. Savor this gift of time.

Awaiting Match Day

For some, doing “nothing” may not sound appealing or remotely doable. As an alternative, here are some stress-reducing activities to bide your time while waiting for Match Day:

  • Try something new, fun and low-stress: painting, knitting, roller skating in an indoor park, training your pet to learn a new trick, dancing, or learning a new sport—like pickleball
  • Bake something yummy. Bonus: Share it with a friend or colleague
  • Clear out a messy drawer
  • Reach out to a colleague or loved one to tell them what you deeply appreciate about them
  • Watch a funny movie
  • Plan an outing with friends—rediscover your town and find something none of you have done like an escape room, axe-throwing, or hiking in an undiscovered area
  • Write a poem
  • Go kickboxing
  • Donate funds or goods to a meaningful cause
  • Put on some good boots and head out for a long walk in the snow. Let the cold invigorate you

There will be very few times in your life in medicine where you won’t have anything you need to do to work toward the next phase of your career. This is one of those coveted times—enjoy it and have fun!

Take the time to celebrate not having to do anything for Match once the process is completely out of your control. The beauty of this is you have nothing you need (or are advised) to do to improve your outcome.

Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of The DO or the AOA.

Related reading:

Rules to rank by: Creating your NRMP Match rank order list

From unmatched to Intern of the Year: My SOAP experience

Audition rotations: Tips for planning them

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