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How a Residency Physician is Chosen

Doctors and Medical Specialties
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Surviving the process in which an institution chooses a residency physician from a pool of medical school candidates is perhaps the most pressure-packed experience yet for prospective doctors. College can be brutal and the Medical College Admissions Test and the rest of the process to get into medical school is also challenging. But considering the stakes involved - a future job as a doctor - becoming a residency physician is arguably the most important and demanding hurdle a prospective physician has yet encountered.

Becoming a Residency Physician

By the time a medical school student reaches the end of the third year of school, he or she has already been training for the opportunity to become a doctor for 7 years. What lies ahead, following medical school graduation, could be a residency of as much as 7 to 8 years that could be followed by an advanced fellowship of up to 3 to 5 more years. At a minimum, a residency physician will go through a 3-year program that involves direct patient contact and supervision by attending medical physicians. Here are the steps required to earn a residency position:

  • Research for medical students. Starting as soon as the end of the 3rd year of medical school, students begin to look ahead to consider the postgraduate residency programs they will apply for during 4th year of medical school.
  • Students apply for residency openings. In order to become a residency physician, students pick the residency programs they are most interested in and send off applications. It isn't unusual for a student to choose dozens of postgraduate programs in order to enhance the likelihood of matching with at least one position.
  • Clinics and hospitals do their own research. The providers offering the residencies study the applications and pick a handful of people to interview. The providers then turn in a list to the National Residency Matching Program with their top choices to fill the job opening.
  • Students match or scramble to be a residency physician. The students, meanwhile, submit their own lists ranking the job openings in order of preference, based on their research and the additional information gathered during any interviews.
  • Match is held in March every year. Students learn whether or not they were "matched" with a postgraduate program two days before Match day, held every year on the last Thursday in March. Those students then "scramble" to contact providers with job openings to find a position by Match day.

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