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Round 2: The Second Match Phase and You

Monday, August 1, 2016   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Elizabeth Maynard
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Round 2: The Second Phase Match and You
by Forrest N. Ridgway, PharmD

As many of you may now know, the 2016 American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) residency matching process included for the first time a second round of interviews and rankings for those who did not match initially. Known as Phase II, it offers PGY-1/PGY-2 residency candidates and programs a chance to seek out options in a more structured environment before proceeding to the mad-dash colloquially known as the “Scramble”. Both fortunately and unfortunately, this year I found myself among the approximately 35% of applicants who went unmatched in Phase I. Taking from my experience going into Phase II, I would like to share what the process was like for me and how I ended up at my current program.

1) Take a moment reflect upon Phase I:
Mentioned above, statistics available from National Matching Services, Inc. going back to 2011 show that the percent of matched and unmatched pharmacy residency applicants has hovered around roughly around 65% and 35% respectively. For the 2016 cycle, this left 1,817 PGY1 and PGY2 candidates of the 5,438 participating in the Match without residency training prospects after Phase I. From an institutional perspective, this left 295 of 1585 programs with 369 unfilled positions (3,621 positions were available overall).
For applicants there is heavy competition and if you did not match it is important to realize that you are part of a sizable group. Perhaps the odds were not in your favor, but now is a good time to reflect on what you can improve. This includes areas such as refining your interviewing skills further, revising how you represented yourself in your letter(s) of intent, or restructuring that presentation that you just were not comfortable enough with.

2) Reassess, review, and make a plan:
The list of programs with unmatched positions is made available at 12:00 PM Eastern Standard Time on Match Day of Phase I. Simultaneously, new application materials may be uploaded to PhORCAS but not submitted to programs until a later date. This year that date fell on March 23rd, a mere five days after Match Day on March 18th.
As I looked at the list of open programs for the first time, I learned that any notion of being geographically limited had to be discarded. I was not particularly restricted during Phase I applications, but there were literally positions scattered across the nation. This is something that should be considered by future applicants as well. It would behoove anyone to assess how dedicated they are to residency training, ask themselves how far they are willing to go, familiarize themselves with any possible programs, and plan exactly what they need to do to apply to those programs.
3) Be proactive:
The timeline for the 2016 Phase II match was as follows: on March 23rd applications could be submitted, on March 28th rank order lists could be submitted, on April 1st rankings must be submitted and finalized. Match results were released on April 8th. It was a bit shocking that the same process that was used for Phase I had to be condensed into a ten day period determining the next year of my life to say the least. Some programs even had their application deadline set for the last possible day, April 1st. For that reason, there really is not any time for applicants to waste contacting potential programs. Shortly after identifying programs of interest on March 18th, I made sure to contact their respective residency directors via e-mail. Networking also became vital. I was informed of programs inquiring about qualified applicants via my school of pharmacy’s experiential education office and former professional contacts who had heard of my situation.

4) Expect the unexpected:
It was a pleasant surprise to realize that prospects in Phase II were not sparse. I was fortunate to receive just as many interview invitations as I had in Phase I. Some applications were also met with rejection letters from programs who had received overwhelming interest in one position. However, accepting all of the invitations offered was somewhat of a hectic matter. Because of the shortened timeline, my interviews included the normative in-person sessions with and without presentations, sessions conducted via conference call taken while sitting in a parked car because there was not a quiet setting at my rotation, and web-based interviews with video. Interview invitations also came on short notice, sometimes within 24 hours of an available timeslot.

5) Remain objective:
Pharmacy students who are applying for residency positions are advised to be objective when making their rank order lists after interviews. Luckily, the same holds true for Phase II. It was very clear in my experience when a program and I were a good fit. The opposite was equally apparent. My final piece of advice is thus to continue to remain objective. Do be open-minded but do NOT rank a program you do not feel comfortable with because you think it is your last shot. There is always a chance to try again.

When the Phase II match results were released on April 8th, the introduction of an additional round to the process seemed to be largely successful. This year’s cycle boasts a 99.1% position fill rate according to the available statistics. Of the 369 positions remaining from Phase I, only 13 PGY1 positions and 24 PGY2 positions were left for the unregulated “Scramble”. Unfortunately, 1,302 applicants went into the second match and 969 were left unmatched. That still remains a problem that can only be solved by the further expansion of pharmacy residency training. I was among the 333 candidates that found a program that fit well. My program is in Southern California, surprisingly far removed from my comfort zone in my home of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but I look forward to my training as a resident. Though it had to be gained through a process I never anticipated, I would easily do it again and encourage future residency applicants to do the same.

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