Trying to figure out what kind of doctor you should become? Wondering what specialty you should choose? Then SheMD's Why Specialty Series is perfect for you! We're bringing you female physicians sharing WHY they chose their specialty. Today's post is on why Dr. Amber Reitz chose the field of anesthesiology and why anesthesiology is a great field for all.
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As a third year medical student, I remember feeling totally overwhelmed toward the end of the year - time was ticking, and it was time to decide which specialty I would pursue. Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed almost every rotation I completed in my third year of medical school. In a way, this almost muddied the waters even more, so to say, and I contemplated my future specialty. I decided to complete an elective rotation in anesthesiology near the end of MS3. I knew I loved the OR, and I loved procedures, but I wasn’t sure a career in surgery was the right path for me. It was during this anesthesiology elective that I realized right where I was meant to be.
Anesthesiology was appealing to me for so many reasons, but ultimately, I knew I wanted to choose a specialty that involved high acuity patient care, procedural skills, physiology, and pharmacology every day. Physiology was my favorite class during the classroom years in medical school, and the intertwined nature of physiology and pharmacology is essential to the daily practice of anesthesia. This specialty is also quite heavy in procedures ranging from invasive vascular access to peripheral nerve blocks and neuraxial pain control to airway expertise. Additionally, I learned that the field of anesthesiology reaches every single patient population – I could still care for each group of patients I fell in love with through all of the third year rotations. Every fellowship following a 4 year residency in anesthesiology is one year in length, and one could specialize in critical care, OB, pediatrics, neuroanesthesia, regional, chronic pain, cardiothoracic, or ambulatory anesthesiology. Long story short, it was the perfect fit for me!
Once I had officially decided to pursue anesthesiology, another decision was made, blending my professional pursuits with personal – my now husband and I were both third year medical students, and we made the decision to couple’s match together. Though intimidating and inducing even more stress about The Match, we knew that this was the best decision for our family moving forward. I remember feeling completely overwhelmed and a little isolated in this experience. Outside of provided videos/information from the NRMP, it was difficult to find advice to navigate The Match as a couple.
How do we decide which programs to each apply for? How many programs should we apply to? Should we apply to programs within the same institution/is this our only option? How do we address the couple’s match in interviews? What if he/she gets an interview somewhere and I don’t?
Overwhelming, right? Not only is the literal process of submitting a rank order list and matching as a couple unique, but the nuances of strategizing the application and interview process felt daunting. I won’t dive into explaining the how-to of structuring and submitting you and your partner’s ROL (you can find really helpful NRMP videos explaining these details online). You should understand the general concept of couple’s matching and how to structure ROLs as a couple prior to digesting my advice, so you can pause here and watch those NRMP videos now if you’d like.
Allow me to answer some of the questions above, the questions that haunted me prior to starting the match process. Disclaimer: the advice given below is simply one couple’s tips for navigating the match. These opinions are most certainly not the end-all be-all of how to couple’s match. That being said, following this advice will not guarantee a successful match, nor does it represent views of the NRMP or any residency program/leadership. These thoughts are merely from an intern hoping to help someone else along the journey of The Match, friend to friend 😊
First, have a discussion with your partner about what you’re about to commit to, for better or for worse. It’s crucially important that you both be entirely transparent. What specialties are you both pursuing? Truthfully, how competitive is each specialty and how competitive is each person for said specialty? Each of you should discuss medical school records, board scores, any blemishes on either residency application. Both parties should always be 100% informed.
Look broadly for programs – of course, do your research into programs and find people/qualities that align with what you hold most valuable in your career and life. Our personal strategy was looking at large cities with multiple programs (my partner matched internal medicine, and I matched anesthesiology). Although we did apply to the same institution in some cities, you absolutely do not have to apply only to the same institutions. As a matter of fact, my husband and I matched into 2 different hospital systems. You can list the same institution multiple times on your list as long as your partner’s rank is a unique institution (aka the combination of your rank and their rank is a unique combination. It’s all about unique combinations).
Decide, early on, how far you and your partner would be willing to travel to and from work every day. As I said before, we gravitated toward larger cities with multiple programs. My husband and I decided that we did not want to live separately in residency, and the most that either of us would be willing to drive daily would be 45 minutes. This is an entirely personal decision – if you and your partner would be willing to drive further daily or live separately during residency, that’s awesome too! Having almost completed intern year, I would caution you on long daily drives, however. Consider your safety when driving after long shifts or 24 hour calls!
With every interview offer, your partner/you can email programs informing them that you are couple’s matching and your partner got an interview in their respective program.
During interviews, we personally made a point to discuss that we were couple’s matching, who was our partner, and what specialty they were applying to. However, interviewers also know this bit of information too, so they may bring it up in conversation themselves.
Hopefully this was helpful to someone – choosing a specialty and couple’s matching can be quite intimidating, but preparedness is key. Get the most out of every rotation as a medical student so that you can make an informed decision. Stay organized, and work on residency applications early. Most importantly, try and have fun! This is what you always dreamed about!