Medical residency mismatch: number of unmatched Canadian medical graduates reaches all-time high


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21 comments

  1. Joshua Tepper

    One point I wish I had made more clearly in the article isnthat whatever the cause the impact on the individual can be really upsetting for many of them. Let’s all be sympathetic and supportive to our colleagues

    • BJ

      Speaking as someone who went through this last year, I can say that it is very upsetting. You feel alone, confused and no one can give you answers. I interviewed at 10 out of 11 programs for a mid-competitive specialty, had 9 publications and great feedback at all my rotations etc. etc. Typical applicant with strong research background.

      I’m happy to say that I’m thrilled at where I matched this year, and I had an extremely introspective year, but the number of students who completely flounder after going unmatched is too high.

      I agree that we need to:
      (a) Train fewer medical students if residency spots are going to be cut… *cough* I’m alluding to the 50 that Wynne cut over the last few years in Ontario*.
      (b) QC needs to start treating their doctors better! That 27% might not want to leave if they did!
      (c) As an Ontarian, the bickering OMA vs. Government really has skewed people away from Family Medicine. Students were concerned that a future in family medicine is worrisome so they applied to Internal instead. Made the Internal match uber-competitive this year.

      • Sandy

        Hi BJ

        Congrats on matching. Sorry to hear your struggles and I am glad you did not give up. All the best in your future career as a doctor!

        • Loser is an anagram of Osler

          I was an unmatched loser ten years ago. Took what I could get in the loser round. Hate it still. Seeing what happened to Sandy’s boyfriend is sickening and could have been my fate had I not licked the crumbs from the side of the table like a good dog, after all of my betters got the choice picks. I could have been starving. It’s better to practice medicine in something I loathe than to not practice at all. That’s what I tell myself. But it is hard to look myself in the mirror and see success and worth. I just see a loser. That’s where the chips fell, and there’s no climbing out of that sewer, as Sandy’s boyfriend’s experience shows us all. The system knows all, we are merely parts of it.

          The worst part is you never know why. Why you’re so much worse than everyone else. You can’t fix it because you don’t know where you’ve gone wrong. In my case I looked at everything: my reference letters, my dean’s letter, my elective evaluations, everything. There were no red flags, no hiccups, no “hidden meanings” between the lines. What else could it be? Is it me? Am I that bad?

          Sandy’s boyfriend deserves a position. He worked hard and showed his determination. The way the system is set up is that if you don’t get a position the first time, you’re obviously a LOSER and shouldn’t have gotten into medical school in the first place. I think most of the people who have read Sandy’s boyfriend’s article here are secretly thinking to themselves “there must be something wrong with him, which is why nobody wanted him”. It is not fair.

          A med student at Mac killed himself after not matching twice for no good reason, even after he lowered his sights and applied broadly. It’s bad enough when they field you’d like to practice in considers you worse than filth, but all other fields? That’s brutal. I get why he did it. People are going to attribute it to the broad stroke of “mental illness” but – and I’m not condoning suicide in any way – I argue it was a rational decision on his part. Not matching is a huge public shaming. You’re exposed to your peers and your superiors as being “unworthy”. It’s human nature, written about by Shakespeare and others, to want to exit life when you’ve been so humiliated and flayed, without any recourse or hope for redemption.

  2. Paul

    Ontario stopped having two separate pools (blending IMG and CMG into one stream) in the second iteration in 2009, the same year the unmatched CMG numbers started to increase. Perhaps the provinces should look at “un-blending” the second iteration and possibly leaving just the unfilled IMG positions as blended. This may help in addressing the unmatched CMG issue. This change can be easily made and un-done (in future matches) if it proves to be not improving the number of unmatched CMG’s.
    One correction to the above, the first iteration is open to both newly graduated CMG’s and CMG’s who went unmatched in previous years (provided they do not have any postgraduate training).

  3. Jay

    The problem is that moving forward, there’s going to be a bottleneck effect at the level of the residency match. Why are medical schools continuing to maintain enrolment numbers and at certain schools, increasing enrolment in light of this? Medical schools need to decrease enrolment or the government must find better incentives for graduates to practice in underserviced areas.

  4. Alisha

    I didn’t read the full article because the pain is bad right now, but for God’s sakes match these students so that we don’t have doctor shortages anymore. People in some Northern Ontario (North Bay, in particular) cities are desperate for family physicians and specialists. The one clinic that is accepting patients in North Bay, Ontario requires that patients fill out a detailed application and once the application is completed, there is a one year waiting list for a meet and greet appointment and the clinic may not even accept you as a patient after the meet and greet appointment.

  5. willa Henry

    This is my opinion as a program director. I would propose limiting applications to 5..most students match in their top 3. Then have a 2nd iteration for only unmatched students..again limiting applications to five. Keep doing this until everyone is matched. In other words..all students who graduate have the option to match…or to withdraw which is their choice. Next would be an IMG match. The numbers we currently get are unwieldy and make it very difficult to identify those who most want us…so most lose out when in fact they might not if we knew they were the top 5 choices.

    • Maria R.

      I’m a current resident and completely agree. It’s so senseless travelling the entire of Canada to numerous interviews when either one or both parties are not seriously considering the other. It costs about 3000 dollars and it’s a lack of respect for the financial stress students are under.

  6. Sandy

    My CaRMS Story
    In March of 2013 I met my best friend and now boyfriend. I was working as a nurse at Toronto hospital when I met a lovely young man in was in his third year of U of T medical school. We quickly became friends and were good friends for 2 years before we started dating. His solid worth ethic, rounding early, great note making, knowledge and ability to answer physician’s questions really impressed me. He inspired me to work hard and become a better nurse.
    He did mathematics and sciences at U of T for undergrad. He was on scholarship every year. He had final multiple grades of 100% in undergrad courses. One of his 100% was in statistics. He wrote the MCATs once and scored nearly perfect. He applied to medical school right after undergrad. He had multiple medical school interviews in Ontario and accepted an offer to attend U of T medical school.
    Prior to going to medical school he thought he would be guaranteed a residency following the completion of medical school. Never in his wildest dreams did he think he would face the problems he has faced (not matching). Going into medical school he had wanted to do family medicine as his father is a U of T medical grad is an amazing family physician. After exposure to different specialties after third year of medical school he was unsure which discipline would suit him best. He sought guidance from faculty at U of T medical school. They recommended anesthesiology. In 4th year he did a ton of anesthesia research and every elective was in anesthesia. He did rotations all over Canada. He packed himself up, left his car behind, his 7 siblings behind (one of which was 7 at the time), the rest of his loved ones behind and travelled to other provinces to complete anesthesiology electives. He had no family, no friends in these other provinces, lived out of a suit case, lived out of hotels, etc. He did this to help give him a great chance to match. His hope would be to match anywhere in Canada for anesthesiology. His 4 year U of T medical school costs were $125,000.00
    March 5, 2014 came where he learned he did not match in the first iteration despite having 9 anesthesiology interviews across the country. When the unfilled spots came out Ottawa anesthesiology had 1 spot unfilled and Ottawa was not one of the 9 schools that had offered him an interview. Not only did he have to deal with the fact he was unmatched but he was also blamed by his ex girlfriend as the result of her not matching to her top choice (U of T internal medicine). She did match to U of T family medicine- rural program. This seemed hardly fair when he got left with nothing. But he did not give up and applied in the second iteration. He had interviews in radiology and family medicine. He had done 4th year selective in family medicine, internal medicine, etc. Once again he went unmatched. He then wrote the MCCQE part 1 and did very well.

  7. Sandy

    continued…
    Following medical school graduation he worked on research projects and publications with world renowned Dr. David Jenkins and his medical team at St. Michael’s hospital in downtown Toronto, Ontario. After months of research projects he decided to return to U of T to complete courses in Computer Science. After completing a total of 8 4th year courses he would be able to add a major on to his existing degree. In no way was he quitting or giving up on medicine. He was interest in perusing education that could compliment both his skills as a MD and would be useful as medicine is continuously evolving from paper to the electronic form. Both computer technology and E health are becoming a way of the future. For example: Hospital, clinics and practices are converting paper physician orders, physician notes, allied notes, charting, medication administration records to the electronic forms. Mental health act forms are now being scanned into electronic documents. CPS manuals are only available in electronic forms. By being knowledgeable regarding computer programming and software he would be able to keep current with the latest medical charting and health care systems, keep up with current health care models, are able to lend support/ aid to various physician offices, clinics, hospitals that are in the process of converting from paper to the electronic form, are able to encourage physician offices, clinics, hospitals that are on paper to convert to the electronic forms and then lend support in the process of change and ae able to also look at computer related issues as they arise. For example: a malfunctioning computer in private practices or clinics may not always have IT support. While perusing his interest of computers which will ultimately help him in his practice as a physician I was still involved in medicine. For example: he took CPR, took ACLS, completed an observer ship in radiology at The Brantford General Hospital, was involved in my father’s family medicine practice , read medical journals, etc. He hoped to increase his knowledge of reading and interpretation x-rays, ultrasound results and other diagnostic tests.
    He sat out both interations of CARMS in 2015 as he was working diligently to earn a major in computer science that he thought could complement him later in his medical career. He also worked part time in computers to help pay back his medical school debt.

    In 2016, he applied to 50 family medicine programs across 6 medical schools. He was left with one interview. He did not match in the first iteration. He applied to family medicine and anesthesiology (over 20 programs). He had 3 interviews and was unmatched yet again.

    In August of 2016 to December 2016 he returned to U of T medical school and enrolled in more electives (Post Grad MD) to increase his ability to match. During this program he focused on family medicine, rural family medicine and other specialties that can strengthen his knowledge and skills as a physician that can be used in family medicine. He completed 2 weeks of family medicine in an office on the East Side of Toronto, a 1 day observership in Palliative Care at Brampton Civic Hospital, 3 weeks of Anatomical Pathology at Trillium Health Partners, 4 weeks of rural family medicine at Guelph Practice (with The Rural Ontario Medicine Program) and a little over 2 weeks- Emergency Medicine at Humber River Hospital (North America’s first fully digital hospital). He hoped Palliative Care would teach him how help provide compassionate

  8. Sandy

    care to those in need. He hopes to include the care of elderly in my practice. He chose Anatomical Pathology to help me better understand sample analysis.This is important as I may have potential patients with lumps, bumps, masses, moles that may need sampling and biopsies. He chose Emergency Medicine to help him practice certain skills that are applicable in family practice eg. Suturing. He also hoped to gain skills, practice, knowledge and confidence should an emergency arise while practicing family medicine. In January 2017, he returned to Humber River Hospital to participate in the teaching and delivery of a 2 day course that focused on ultrasound as a diagnostic tool in the ER.

    He participated in CaRMS in 2017. Despite recently completing all these electives (more electives that current medical school graduates), having done post graduate research and publications, doing the post Grad MD program he did not get a single interview despite applying to many programs. Post Grad MD was an additional $8,000.00. He was unmatched for a 3rd year.

    It breaks my heart to go to work and work with 1 particular co-worker. I have 1 friend that I work with whose husband got U of T internal med for a residency. He went to undergrad at U of T, did not apply to medical school in Canada (most likely his grades were to low) and he went to medical school in Ireland (University College Cork School of Medicine). Her husband was one of the lucky 421 IMGs to match. She always talks about how he deserved a spot, how hard he worked during medical school, how they had to have a long distance relationship where they could not talk everyday because he was so busy working with medical school. She is constantly making fun of me and bullying me in the workplace. She always tells me I don’t date a real doctor, and he must have not worked hard, we should just break up and how much of a loser I date because he did not get a residency. But her husband could not get into a Canadian medical school but yet got a residency at U of T. Do any of you know how that feels (to go to work on a daily bases and be told to break up with the person you love because he must be a loser for not getting a spot)? I am bullied on a daily bases for dating some one that was left without a residency. Do any of you know how humiliating that is to be bullied in the nursing station and have the person you love most to be called a loser in front of everyone. I know how hard my boyfriend worked, how smart he is and how he got robbed of a spot. When doctor’s day 2017 came up on May 1/17. I made my boyfriend a card to help him celebrate all he has achieved. My friend told me he is not worthy of a card because he is not a real doctor despite earning an MD from U of T.

    It breaks my heart to see other medical students and residents be given a chance but no one will take a chance on my boyfriend. It has tore my heart out of my body to see ill prepared medical students show up for placement not even knowing how to write progress notes following their examination of a patient and then they match. I have seen 1 3rd year pediatric resident show up for placement without a clue how to read an ECG, not interested in seeing

  9. Sandy

    continued…
    any patients, not interested in looking at any lab values, she was only interested in asking the nurse a bunch of questions so she would get the answers without rounding or looking up lab values. Things were so bad that I told my mother who recommended next time in the same situation to just go hide in the bathroom. Yet, this resident then further matched to a popular pediatric subspecialty. I had the opportunity to work with 1 3rd year psychiatric resident who was constantly forgetting form expiry dates, frequently letting forms lapse accidently, discharging patient’s while certified under the mental health act, ordering labs and blood work under the wrong patient. He blamed the nurses for not notifying him about the forms when the charts were made available to him, form statuses was written for every patient on a white board in the nursing station and in the daily assignment binder in the nursing station. To see all these people get a chance and then not to see boyfriend get a single chance breaks my heart.

    Due to CaRMS and my boyfriend not matching we have had defer getting engaged, getting married, having children. We both still live at home as it makes no sense to settle into a home for a short time if he were to match in the future. because we would most likely have to move. It is hard to make a solid plan for the future if your future may be on the move. My boyfriend tries year after year for CaRMS. Every year I hope and pray this will be the year and the last time we go through this.

    CARMS is a huge source of my stress, relationship problems, it has caused unhappiness and the ability to plan for any type of a future. I have spent countless hours helping with ideas for impact statements, ideas for interview questions, videos other students made while going through CaRMS. I have dedicated time to help him on my days off, while on vacation yet nothing ever seems to help. The amount of hours have spent crying, all the sleepless nights, all the days I felt sick sick/ nervous with stress and fear to eat, all the days I was a shitty person or nurse due to the stress of CARMS, all the relationship arguments, putting my life and my kids on hold, hoping for a better future…… I would never wish what I have gone through with my boyfriend with even my worse enemy. No one deserves to be dragged through Hell and back the way CaRMS has to my boyfriend. U of T medical school does not even care. They won’t even help him for one second. Yet, U of T has a history of handing out spots outside of CaRMS. This is not allowed but yet schools do it e.g. when a participant drops out of their program which is not suppose to happen then the spot just gets handed to some one a silver platter and a get a residency they never matched to. Some people get lucky while others have terrible luck. Everyone deserves a chance.
    They should only make enough medical school spots as there are residencies.

  10. Sandy

    continued…
    I am proud to date my boyfriend as he is a wonderful, kind human that attempted to dedicate his life to helping others but others won’t give him a chance to prove he is worthy of a spot. He is the bravest, smartest, most hardest working person I know and for that he makes me proud. He has made me more hardworking, more dedicated, smarter, more skilled, etc and for that I am darn lucky.

    If any of you doctors or program directors have any advice please respond! Help is welcome and would be greatly appreciated.

    • BJ

      Holy! That’s unbelievable. Definitely the worst CaRMS story I have ever heard. I’m so sorry. I hope someone more useful than myself can respond to this…

    • Canadian Rural Orthopaedic Surgeon

      Dear Sandy,
      Thanks for your story. I appreciate your openness and sincerity. Sadly, I cannot offer you any advice/help from a program directorship or academic viewpoint as I work in rural area. From what you have written, this physician demonstrates a passion for the science, determination and tremendous work ethic, and I can affirm that these are qualities essential to a rewarding medical practice. My limited seven year teaching experience of students and surgical residents has given me appreciation for those who are versatile, innovative and flexible, as this doctor has endeavoured to be. I can relate, in some respects, to your situation as I am in a field where surgical employment was limited and I know what it feels like to have no work after all the training. The experience was difficult but gave me a reality check to truly appreciate the privilege we are awarded to care for the sick, no matter in what route that ultimately transpires. I want to thank this colleague for his hard work, and that he recognizes the accomplishments he has already achieved. I do hope that he does someday achieve his desired objectives. Although a matching process is very stressful, I hope that you are able to help each other navigate the important things in life, remain steadfast from the distractions of unprofessional behaviour, and continue to deliver the best service possible in the care of your patients. Best wishes!

    • ian

      Hello Sandy,
      I am ex rural GP and soon to be retied surgeon. My wife and I are from the era before the match and have three children who went through match stress ( two in the highest demand ). I really feel we should match all our students. I also think there should be more lateral movement between disciplines ( 40 to 60 years ago about 20 % of specialists were retreads like me ), In your situation your diligent boyfriend needs a mentor that can go to bat for him not just paperwork. I hope it works out.

      • john davidson

        Ian,
        I agree with you completely.I too am an ex-rural GP (briefly, one terrific year) from the pre-match era. The university surgical program effectively gave me that year as a sabbatical.
        I was prepared (adequately, I thought) , by 4 intensive med school years and one super-intensive rotating internship year at a large Canadian teaching hospital.
        Were does it say that family medicine requires more? We did have the Krebs cycle, labs, X-rays, antibiotics, EKGs even then. And meaningful, hands-on rotations in EVERY discipline….IM, general surgery, OB-GYN, psychiatry, ER medicine, and various sub-specialties.
        So (then) , I could do what I saw my own family doctor did on his house calls and in his practice. And , while valuing that experience, knowing that specialization was what I wanted, I delivered babies, did tonsillectomies, house calls, surgical assists, and ER medicine. And felt qualified to do so. And loved it.
        I then started in a premier general surgery program , and switched to orthopedics at the same premier university program, (my choice…. ortho program invited me). I could have finished general surgery but lateral-shifted to the specialty that found me and I it. Possible then! Better for me and for general surgery, probably.
        I retired 41 years later after a great experience in orthopedic surgery practice.
        My daughter-in-law, an A-student graduate in a Canadian medical school,was, recently not even given an interview in family practice anywhere in Canada.
        She then matched in internal medicine (not her first or best choice) and will , with two children and husband , finish more years later, possibly uprooting her family and career-path “tenured” husband, to another province after 10+ years where they are. Such injustices abound, it seems.
        How can this present system in any way be fair to these young people who have invested so much, in their time, toil and money?
        My relatives fight to find and keep primary care MDs, then to get timely referrals to specialists.
        In what universe does this present system work for anyone, doctor or patient?
        Sandy’s and many others’ matching horror stories break my heart and are poignant examples of a broken , inhumane and inefficient system, with suspect parameters. And ,in this greatest ,noblest profession, to not be able to go forward is sad, and bad for the profession and its patients.
        So, Sandy and Ian, I agree. Everyone should match on graduation and lateral movement between disciplines is desirable.

    • Plotsky

      Your boyfriend should try applying to anesthesiology in the USA. They have more spots and provided he scores well enough on the board exams, he should be able to get a spot somewhere. He should then proceed to stay in the USA to practice indefinitely. Canada doesn’t deserve him.

  11. Paul

    Hi Sandy,
    Sorry to hear about your boyfriend. I would suggest he apply to the States as well because they have a lot more spots than here in Canada. This year he should concentrate on writing the usmle and getting good scores on it. I wish him the best of luck in the future.

  12. Rubenstein

    I take issue with the following statement:

    “On an individual level, although being unmatched is stressful and a loss of a year, historically, virtually all unmatched students find success in subsequent years.”

    Let’s cool it with the rosy language.

    Matching out of desperation is not success. It’s settling.

    Going into psych because you couldn’t get a spot in ENT is not success. It’s desperation.

    Call it what it is.

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