Interviews

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For anyone who’s gone through the whole medical school process, you know that you will have your share of interviews. First there’s “getting into medical school” interviews, then “getting into residency” interviews, for some “getting into fellowship” interviews….and the most important of all, “getting your first job out of residency” interviews.

All my interviews prior to now have been set up according to certain laws of attrition. Apply to X number of medical schools in the hopes of getting a least a few interview requests, which would then trickle down to 1 or 2 offers of admission, if you were lucky. In my case, since I was a “non-traditional” medical student (AKA, older and had a previous career), I tried to choose medical schools that had an older average age of their students, or ones that advertised diversity as a crucial part of their selection process. I remember an interview at one medical school with a psychiatrist that did not go so well. He was a researcher in schizophrenia and I tried connecting with him by sharing my experiences with a massage client I had taken care of for years who had paranoid schizophrenia. He was not impressed, which was quite evident in his interaction with me. I guess I just didn’t fit the mold he was looking for: a 24 year old science major with research experience.

Fast forward to my residency interviews, and I recall several awkward moments after responding to questions about my daughter, who was in high school at the time. Interviewers are not supposed to directly ask about your age (or race, religion, etc), but there are subtle ways to introduce the topic, and let’s face it, I wasn’t hiding the fact that I had a family, (although I was hiding my gray hairs with some hair dye). I have some female resident friends who are starting to think about when to start a family. The timing is especially important, as you don’t want the interviewer to know that you are pregnant, because the employer worries about covering your patients when you are out on maternity leave. Similar to my medical school application process, I expected a 50% attrition during each part of the residency application process. Apply to X number of residencies, expect 50% to request interviews, and another 50% to put you on their rank list. Then cross your finger on match day that you interviewed well enough to NOT get the last program on your rank list.

The worst part of the medical school and residency application process however is that it’s so darn expensive! I just piled plane tickets, hotel stays, and meal expenses on top of an already expanding medical school debt. Not to mention the time I forgot my suit at my last interview location. I had to leave a resident dinner early so that I could get to the mall prior to closing to pick up yet another suit that I would probably only wear once.

As one of the chief residents in our residency program, I had the honor of interviewing medical students recently. It is odd to be on the other side, to realize that I have a contribution to where the student ends up on our rank list. I tried to be friendly with the applicants, to make them feel comfortable, all the while trying to figure out in 20 minutes if this person would be a good addition to our program. Would they work hard? Would they be a team player? Would they be open to feedback? You can tell by their board scores and medical school transcripts how smart they are, but all medical students are smart, otherwise they wouldn’t have gotten this far. It’s much harder to determine if the student works and plays well with others. We also take them out to lunch afterwards, which is a more relaxed environment and sometimes easier to see their idiosyncransies (and it’s also a test to see who orders an alcoholic drink at lunch).

I am, thankfully, at the end of the long interview trail. While I did go to one fellowship interview (for those not in the medical realm, fellowship is basically just more residency training in a subspecialty area), I changed my mind last minute and decided I was ready for the real world. I threw out my resume to a recruiter who helped me narrow down possible places to live and work. I had previously joined several online physician job locators and continue today to get many many emails about jobs that are available in my specialty, all around the country. Point being, there are a lot more job openings than there are medical school or residency spots. Many of them are not in places that you want to live, but there are lots of options which is reassuring.

So I recently finished 3 interviews for my “first real job out of residency”, and let me tell you, it was nothing like my medical school and residency interviews. For the first time I did not feel like I was clambering for any spot offered. This time it was more of a balanced interview process. Each hospital and I were trying to figure out if we were the right fit for each other; if we wanted the same things; if I would work well in the environment and with the providers in the group. It was such a nice change. And miraculously, I did not pay for any of it! It was so odd to have hospitals pay for my trip (including my husband who accompanied me, which makes sense as I’ve discovered 53% of residents leave their first job. The #1 reason is they don’t like the community, and the #2 reason is that their spouse is unhappy).

I felt like a celebrity. There were welcome baskets in the hotel rooms. I was taken out to “recruitment” dinners by hospital administration and physicians that worked for them. One hospital that was close to a National Park even recommended my husband and I take a few extra days to site see the area, on their dime! It wasn’t as easy to pick the place I wanted to work as it was to pick medical schools or residencies. This was such a permanent decision. I spent a great amount of time listing the pros and cons of each job offer, with my husband’s help, until I choose the one place that met most of our needs. I am so looking forward to this move, and am crossing my fingers that I will love the community and the hospital. If I don’t, then in 3 years I will be on the interview trail once again. Cheers!

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