There is a folder with my name on it. This means I made it to the right city on the right day and they actually were expecting me to come. PHEW. During interview season for residency the actual interviews are probably the least stressful part of the process. First, when we try to submit our ERAS application, the entire program happens to crash and shut down for the 48 hours when we are supposed to hand it in. After that, we all neurotically refresh our e-mails waiting for interview invites. The first invitation is SO exciting, so of course you schedule it immediately regardless of the fact that it’s from a hospital you didn’t even apply to in a city you didn’t know existed. Then, as you get more invites the scheduling gets more stressful, trying to set up Salt Lake two days before Denver so you only have to make one cross-country trip, but inevitably those are the only dates that happen to already be full.
So you’ve scheduled your interviews, and now you have to actually go to the cities. For two months we live out of a suitcase, staying in one city for no longer than three days. We spend hours on end in airports and train stations, navigating a new city’s public transportation system, figuring out Uber and Air B&B to save $50 because we are all broke. I got on the wrong bus multiple times, and my phone died because it was so cold in downtown Chicago, stranding me at 11 p.m. Luckily the police in the Midwest are super friendly and helped me find a 24 hour Rite Aid so I could buy a portable charger. That policeman saved my life. Eventually you make it to wherever you are staying – if you are lucky it’s the free Comfort Inn the program is providing for you. You are in a new city, so you really should explore, but there is free wifi in the hotel and you have some serious TV to catch up on. After a two hour nap in a comfy bed and a warm bath, you somehow find your way to the happy hour.
Your first happy hour is really awkward. You ask all these questions about call hours and elective opportunities, not yet realizing that all that really matters is if you get along with the residents in the program. You think way too hard about what the residents will think about you if you have a beer, and then you think way too hard about what the residents will think about you if you don’t have a beer. You talk about where everyone is from, and what they might want to eventually specialize in, so you end up saying “Sarah, Vermont, Intensive Care” every time you shake someone’s hand without being prompted.
You then go back to the hotel and read the program’s website so you don’t come in empty handed. You can’t sleep anyway because you are thinking about how exactly you are going to get to the hospital in the morning, praying that your three alarms go off. You are also already thinking about whether or not you will make your flight after the interview day.
You wake up in the morning, check underneath the bed to make sure you aren’t forgetting a sock and hoist all of your belongings onto your back. You make it to the interview, and your name is on the folder! You walk into a room full of people dressed identically, and it takes about five minutes for one of the residents or administration to comment on this, giving kudos to the one girl dressed in gray. At your first interview, the room is completely silent. By interview number four, you are exchanging phone numbers and planning the decorations for the apartment you might share next year. Besties.
You end up cancelling five interviews at the end of January that you thought you were really excited for, but you just, can’t. You wait until the week before your rank list is due to even open the NRMP program because you think that if you agonize over the programs just a little longer you might have some epiphany. When February 25 rolls around you finally put in your list, switch your number seven and eight about 14 times, log-out, log-in again, switch your list again, then finally submit it. After midnight you start having a panic attack about which program you put number one. Is that really what you want? What if you get it? What if you don’t?
The next few weeks are filled with relief, anxiety, confusion, amazement. I cry when a sad song comes on the radio for no apparent reason, and then laugh uncontrollably at a car commercial. We try to see as much as we can of each other, already nostalgic for first and second year and telling funny stories from the Halloween dance in 2013. We all think about what our reaction will be when we fly to our new cities and the flight attendants ask over the loudspeaker: “Is there a doctor on the plane?” We all buzz with excitement and anxiety for March 16 and March 20, imagining our friends and family watching us. More than anything, though, we are excited to share this moment with classmates who have become a family. Class of 2015, it’s been a wild ride.