Saturday, April 17, 2021

2020 - 2021 Residency Season (Diary Posts)

So happy to be done with the process!

Happy Saturday! As promised, I am releasing the posts I previously wrote during this past residency application season. I originally planned to write weekly, but life remained busy as usual, so I only wrote two posts, one from 10/22/2020 and another from 10/23/2020. There's not much, so I'll just include both posts here. Not sure if it will help anyone, and I made sure to retract program names, so just posting on the blog for my memories. 


I’m a little late with my first ERAS post, but things have been super busy this week. Right now, I am at work and just got a break. I am 11 hours into my shift and between physical and telemedicine visits, I have seen a total of 46 patients today AND finished all my notes! Hopefully, this last hour will be a smooth one.

Anyway, back to ERAS. I officially submitted my surgery applications on Sunday night, and it was an interesting experience. My application has been done for a while, but I figured submitting on October 18th would give me enough time to find any flaws (due to the pandemic this year, programs weren’t able to review applications until 9am on 10/21/2020). I didn’t get off work until 11:15pm, so by the time I got home and took a shower it was technically Monday when I was able to sit down and submit. I grabbed my laptop, had my boyfriend sit next to me for moral support, typed in my info, and after a little hesitation, forcefully hit the submit button. I was about to breathe a sigh of relief but quickly saw the words “card declined”. Now I have more than enough money in my bank account, so I initially thought I entered my address wrong. I carefully re-entered all my information and clicked submit again only to get declined. I was super confused! It was then that I realized my bank was probably blocking the charge because I had literally never spent so much money at one time in my entire life. It took me a few hours, but I figured out how to temporarily increase my daily spend limit, and I was finally able to successfully submit around 1:30am. The total charge for my application to 289 general surgery programs and 80 Plastic Surgery programs came out to be $9032. (Yep, you’re reading that correctly) To put that amount into context, the very first car I bought was around $7000 and took me a few years to pay off. Even the lavish birthday trip to Paris that I treated my daughter to last year cost me less than a third of the cost I spent on ERAS applications this year. Let that sink in.

To be honest, as tough as it was seeing the money leave my account, applying to so many programs is probably the biggest change from my previous applications. When I first applied in the 2018 cycle, the total I spent was $1910 ($1686 in the actual match and the rest during SOAP...reviewing my payment history now). For the 2019 cycle, I spent a total of $372, and the total spent on the 2020 cycle was $353 (and I forgot to register for SOAP, so did not participate this year). You’re probably thinking “What the hell! Why didn’t she apply to more programs the first time around?!?!” Well, the answer is simple...I couldn’t afford it. 

What most people don’t realize is the whole process of becoming a physician is super expensive. I couldn’t just use credit cards to pay for my applications, because I was already maxed out from previous years (having a ton of student loan debt and trying to stay afloat as a single parent will do that to you). I also knew I couldn’t afford to travel to interviews all over the country. Yep, that’s another thing they don’t tell you: you not only pay just to APPLY to residency programs, but then you’re responsible for the cost of flight, hotel, car rental, and any incidental expenses. It all adds up. By the time most medical students get ready to apply for residency, they have already spent thousands of dollars just taking board exams alone, not to mention the other costs associated with being a medical student. And on top of all this, you’re still expected to have extra money for the few months between graduation and the start of residency when you’re likely moving to a new state and having to put down security deposits on new places to live. I guess the one good thing about being in a pandemic this year is I will save a lot of money by not having to travel everywhere. Yay for virtual interviews! 

So yes, the main reason why I didn’t apply to all the programs I would have liked to in previous years was because I couldn’t afford it. I also couldn’t afford to apply as an intern with a resident’s salary (even though they are physicians, when you average out the hours worked with the pay, the majority of resident physicians make less than minimum wage **and don’t even get me started on how expensive it was living in Philadelphia**), and I couldn’t afford to apply last cycle because I had just moved back to Georgia and was jobless for my first month back. None of that applies this year, because not only have I been blessed with the opportunity to save up for residency applications, but I’ll also be able to relocate and start residency without being on a struggle bus. Turns out going unmatched and having to start working as a physician has been a huge blessing! Shout out to God for always having my back even when I can’t see it!

To wrap this up and get back on track, submitting my residency applications this year feels like a huge relief and I’m actually hopeful of what’s to come. I’m a little scared that being 2 years out of medical school will hurt my chances at a lot of programs and I won’t get a lot of interviews despite having applied to so many, but I am just going to keep my faith and keep pressing. God didn’t bring me this far to leave me and I know the best is yet to come! Hopefully my next post will be an interview invite update, but right now I have two minutes left on the clock and I am ready to go home! Good night!

10/23/2020 2:31pm

Well it’s officially day 3 of ERAS applications being open, and already this year is different from previous ones. Last night shortly after leaving work, I was fortunate enough to receive a supplemental application link from the [retracted] Surgery residency program and a few hours later I received a link to complete [retracted]’s assessment. There’s a high chance that these were probably sent out to everyone who applied to these programs, but there were two things that stuck out to me: 

  • The email I received from [retracted] started off as “Dear Dr. Ward”. I don’t have the “Dr” salutation listed in my application, so either they actually took the time to review my application and see that I am already a physician, or they call everyone doctor. I’m going to tell myself the former, and that alone makes me smile just a little. 

  • The first line of the [retracted] email read as “Congratulations! The General Surgery Residency Program at [retracted] has reviewed your application and determined you are a high potential candidate for our program.” This email came at 11:31pm last night, and even if they sent this message to everyone who applied, what a way to make a girl feel good!

Both institutions had assessments that were very different. [Retracted] had a super fun survey that really focused on my interests and individuality outside of medicine. [Retracted]’s assessment took me exactly 40 minutes to complete and it was basically a list of scenarios with me rating what I thought was most effective and personality questions. It also included an optional “passion index” survey which rated my overall passion for surgery as high with the breakdown as a high harmonious passion and moderate consuming passion. I’ll take it :)

As for interview invites, none yet. I did receive my first rejection today, and ironically it was from [retracted]’s general surgery program which is in my state. Their loss. I also discovered that plastic surgery programs have a unified date that they offer interviews (December 4th) which is designed to give programs time to review applications. This means there will probably be radio silence on the PRS end until then, but if I do receive interviews, I will be notified of everything that day. The only negative I can see coming from this is since interviews will start December 7th and my work schedule will already be set for the month, I may end up giving up a lot of shifts. Luckily I’ll have received a few more paychecks by that time, so it won’t hurt if I need to take off work or work less shifts for a month or two in order to interview.

That’s it for this post. I don’t expect any interview invites to happen for at least a week or two from the programs that actually review applications and don’t just screen by numbers, which means you’ll likely have to wait for that kind of good news. We’ll see what happens!

4/17/2021 4:06pm

The best is most certainly yet to come and I'm excited for what's in store as I enter plastic and reconstructive surgery residency! Reading these two posts makes me kinda sad I didn't write more because the whole process is now a blur in my mind. Even if I don't post regularly when I start my training, I think I'm going to either record my daily thoughts or just keep a journal and jot down daily musings, because I truly enjoy looking back over my journey. Shoutout to everyone who has stuck around and followed my journey through the blog over the years. Life is about to get real!

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