The Long And Winding Road...not just the title of a classic Beatles’ song, but also a great analogy to describe the life of a medical spouse. It is finally March, spring is in the air...wait, STOP! That version is from another story, not ours. If your spouse or partner is in his/her/their final year of medical school, your current air space is likely to filled with some degree of stress, anxiety and worry. On one hand, you are doing your best to support your partner as the big day approaches, all the while wondering what the future holds for you both come Match Day. You are not alone friend, these feeling are completely NORMAL and to be expected! Before we go on, let's stop for a moment to acknowledge both of you on your commitment, determination and teamwork so far on your med journey. Reaching the end of medical school is a BIG accomplishment!
In North America, March means MATCH DAY. The day one’s life has the potential to be drastically changed depending on the outcome of his/her/their partner’s residency match results. In Canada, the 2020 Match results will be released on March 3rd. In the United States, Match Day 2020 takes place on March 20th.
It’s been many years since my husband, John, matched to his residency program. I vividly remember the unspoken worry we had knowing that ultimately a computer algorithm would potentially be making a life changing decision for us as a couple. The weeks leading up to his match were stressful. As much as I tried to be supportive and understanding, I was anxious too. I worried about the potential disappointment that my partner would feel if he didn’t match to his first choice of both surgical speciality and school. I also worried about what our relationship might look like if he matched to a school in another city or province. By this point we had already experienced doing the long distance relationship thing during his first year of medical school, which resulted in us temporarily parting ways. So at that point in our relationship, long distance was not something either of us was interested in repeating.
At the time, I also had a job that I loved. I was extremely hopeful that John would match to one of two programs, either in the city we were living in at the time, or to a program in the city that I was working in located an hour away. In fact at one point, I remember asking John to consider ranking the latter program as his first choice. In my mind, we’d have the best of both worlds, no more commuting for me, and we’d both be working at hospitals in the same city...how great would that be? Looking back, I realize that my request was slightly unfair. In the end, John held firm and did not revise his rankings based on my two cents, and fortunately, he matched to his first choice.
For many couples, the reality of Match Day has the potential to change the course of relationships, in some cases temporarily and in other situations more permanently. The stakes also run high for MD couples who are Couples Matching, hoping to end up in the same city. And it’s another story entirely, if you and your partner already have a family, as Match Day can be even more complicated when relocating an entire family becomes your reality.
Fear and uncertainty of any situation can be unsettling, and can be even more challenging to accept when you feel like a decision (aka Match Day) is being made for you. Over the years, I have come to realize that when faced with a situation that I feel little control over, the one thing I always have control over is my reaction. I’ve also found that in these moments, there is always something to be grateful for...as cliche as this may sound, and before you give me a virtual eye roll, hear me out! I promise, if you look hard enough, you will always find something to be grateful for in every situation. The ability to focus on being grateful for that one thing really has the potential to change your perspective, even if only temporarily.
It can also be beneficial to look inward and attempt to figure out what it is you fear most about the situation, and then ask yourself why? It has been my experience that once I’m able to really articulate what it is that I’m most worried about, and then effectively communicate my worry to my partner, we usually both end up feeling better. And if all else fails, get yourself moving! That’s right, if you need to shake the pre-Match Day anxiety, move your body! Take a walk, run, swim, bike, have a dance party in your kitchen (I highly recommend this option), do yoga...do whatever it takes to get your blood pumping and your mind distracted. Movement always helps me find clarity, and enhances by overall ability to cope, even in the most difficult of circumstances.
Talking to a trusted friend or family member can sometimes help to alleviate the stress and anxiety of the unknown. Reaching out and connecting with people who are in a similar situation, or who have experienced and survived your current circumstance can also be helpful. Finding a trusted tribe is essential to surviving life as a medical spouse, I am grateful everyday for mine people.
Just know, wherever you find yourself on Match Day, you are not alone. If you need a cheerleader to help you celebrate your partner’s match, I’ll be here popping the champagne and cheering loudly for you both. And if you are struggling, feeling less than happy or conflicted with the outcome, reach out my friend, I am here, and will be happy to hold space for you too.
Wishing everyone (on both sides of the white coat) a very successful 2020 Match Day!