Residency Match Communication Too Stressful, Needs Reform

Ryan Syrek, MA


October 10, 2018

The Burden of Responsibility and Generational Differences

"One of the main purposes of our conducting the study was to shed light on the pervasiveness of this problem and hopefully educate more faculty interviewers," Tendulkar said. "The programs do this every year. The applicants do this once. The burden of responsibility falls on the programs to try and eliminate inappropriate questions being asked."

In unpacking the results of the study, Deiorio and Schneider's commentary points to potential generational differences. The vast majority of the candidates belong to the millennial generation, whereas program directors are likely to belong to the baby boomer or generation X generations. The authors theorize that the stress inherent in the postinterview communication process specifically "could be related to unclear rules of engagement."

Essentially, because millennials were raised in a highly communicative era, Deiorio and Schneider suggest that these candidates may feel a need to engage in postinterview communication even when discouraged from doing so. Furthermore, the authors point out that program directors who belong to the baby boomer generation may not even consider thank-you notes to be a part of an explicitly postinterview communication but an extension of the interview process itself.

More Oversight, Less Stress

The researchers behind the survey suggest that the creation of an opt-out postinterview survey for all NRMP participants would allow for deeper insight into the scope of this particular aspect of concern. Although many of the issues that cause distress among candidates are inherently unavoidable, this is a potentially fixable area of the process where changes may bring about some relief.

Specifically in terms of the inappropriate interview questions, Tendulkar suggested that "The best recourse for the NRMP would be to create a better process for interviewees to report these kind of allegations." He did note that students may still be hesitant to make such accusations knowing that they may match at that program and then have to work with those they reported.

The entire match process is laden with hurdles, stress, and remarkable anxiety among students who are already facing an "alarming rate" of burnout. Addressing smaller, manageable concerns like inappropriate questions and postinterview communication demands may be a way to help stave off worsening burnout down the road.

Tendulkar suggested that the solution may not even necessarily be rooted in any kind of official policy reform. "I truly think that it is an awareness issue. Taking steps like properly educating faculty as to what questions are inappropriate and explicitly discouraging applicants sending thank you emails and cards are some easy steps that programs can do to reduce the distress that applicants may experience."


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