Jennifer Shuey MS4, Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine
When you start medical school, everyone says first year is figuring out how to be a medical student, second year is the worst year of your life, third year is amazing, and fourth year is stressful due to applying to residency. My first and second years went according to plan. My third year was amazing until this “weird virus” was causing many people to get sick. No one really understood what it was or what we should do about it. Within an hour you would meet people who were terrified and people who believed it was not a big deal. I remember feeling confused - should I be scared or not? I remember going into the hospital on a random Monday morning. Around an hour later we were told go home and wait until you are told to come back. For the next 2 weeks, the Dean’s office and all the clinical offices tried to figure out what to do with us. I, like many, had hoped this would be short lived and my life as a medical student could get back on track quickly.
This was in March of 2020. I sit here now in August, 5 months later with no return to normal insight. When this change started, I was applying on VSAS for away rotations. As the time went on, while at home I had to figure out how exactly virtual rotations work and how to take a shelf exam from home. I am also starting to panic because I have not heard back from any away rotations, I applied to on VSAS. We then got the email that VSAS is closed and will open back up in May. When it opened, I still had all my applications pending. My anxiety was high, and my school told us the policy on aways are changing, stay tuned. Who knew things changing and stay tuned would become the new normal for the foreseeable future?
From all the years that came before me, I have heard about the stress of getting LORs, not just enough but the right ones. I am not sure how I am going to get the LORs I need, just numbers never mind the “right ones”. I am sure many MS4s feel the same way now.
I had also been advised that the upside to all the stress of applying is all the dinners. They are often what tells you if you truly fit with a program. Those are not happening this year. Now both programs and applicants must struggle to figure out the personal factors that go into finding the right match.
I am a worrier, so I have asked many people for advice on how to set myself apart in this uncertain time. I continually hear make sure to stay in touch with the program, so they remember your name. That is great advice, but I sit here thinking that all of us have gotten the same advice, so how does that make me stand out. I also worry about where is the line between interested candidate and annoying.
In this year of uncertainty, it is easy to lose sight of the good in life and only complain about the problems. I have spent a lot of time focusing on the positives of this experience. I am healthy, my family is healthy, I am protected, as a student I am not at the front lines, my school really has my safety at heart. I have learned how to deal with things that I never thought I would be faced with. I like to believe if another pandemic hits I will be better prepared to handle all the ramifications.
This year has had many changes and those changes are not stopping anytime soon. I focus on the good and try not to dwell on the “bad”. The truth however is that I am scared. I think what will my future hold, where will I be next year, what will normal be next year, 5 years from now, 10 years from now? My belief is that with resilience, patience and understanding towards each other and a little hope we will all have a successful match season and be happy with our futures.
posted August 25, 2020