The results are in! Yesterday was Match Day, the culmination of a year’s work in the complex process that matches the nation’s graduating medical students with residency programs. During the first half of their senior year, medical students apply for positions at residency programs, which they then visit for interviews with program directors, faculty and residents.

In February, the students submit their list of choices in order of preference, and at the same time residency program directors submit their rank-ordered lists of preferred candidates to the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP) headquarters in Washington, D.C. A computer matches each student to the residency program highest on the student’s list that has offered a position to the applicant.

Residency programs vary in length according to specialty, from three years for general medicine/family practice specialties to eight years for the most specialized of surgeons. A residency is a major step in building a medical career.

While many medical students get matched into one of their first few choices, some match into a last-choice residency program. Others don’t match at all and have to go into the ‘scramble,’ and try to get into a residency program that didn’t fill all of their training slots.
The number of seniors at U.S. medical schools entering primary care rose again in this year’s residency match, according to a release by the NRMP.

Positions filled by filled by U.S. seniors rose by 11% in family medicine, 8% in internal medicine and family medicine matches were higher for the second year straight. Emergency medicine, anaesthesiology and neurology also saw increases in U.S. college seniors.

Continuing a trend from the last few years, pediatrics was again a sought after specialty for many medical students. There was an increase of 3% in the number of students going into pediatric residency programs and 98% of the 2,437 pediatric residency positions were filled on Match Day.

Once they finish their pediatric residency programs, these students will either join the almost 60,000 general pediatricians now practicing in the United States, or go on to extra training and be one of the just over 35,000 pediatric specialists.

Many specialty fields did not show much growth, mainly because they are highly competitive. At least 90% of available positions in dermatology, orthopedic surgery, otolaryngology, plastic surgery, radiation oncology, thoracic surgery, and vascular surgery were filled by U.S. seniors.

Due to ongoing increases in U.S. medical school enrolment, the 2010 Match was the first year that the number of positions filled by U.S. seniors exceeded 15,000.

The National Resident Matching Program Board of Directors is considering a change to the policies governing the Main Residency Match. Under the new policy, the rules of participation for all registered applicants would be standardized by requiring institutions participating in the Main Residency Match to place all of their core residency positions in the Main Residency Match or another national matching program.

The NRMP is not an application processing service; rather, it provides an impartial venue for matching applicants’ and programs’ preferences for each other consistently. Each year, approximately 16,000 U.S. medical school students participate in the Main Residency Match. In addition, another 20,000 “independent” applicants compete for the approximately 25,000 available residency positions. Independent applicants include former graduates of U.S. medical schools, U.S. osteopathic students and graduates, Canadian students and graduates, and students and graduates of international medical schools.

In 2010, the NRMP enrolled 4,176 programs in the Match, which altogether offered 25,520 positions. A total of 37,556 applicants participated in the Match. Of those, 16,427 were 2010 graduates of accredited U.S. medical schools and 21,129 were independent applicants.

Source: The National Residency Matching Program

Written by Sy Kraft, B.A.