Class of 2020: Match Day during a Pandemic
Special Issue: AAEM Tales of COVID-19
Author: Gloria Felix
I opened my email on March 20, 2020 at 11:59 am: I matched into emergency medicine, at a program that serves my community and one where I used to volunteer when I was a teen. After years of living away from home, I get to come back!! I was overwhelmed with nerves, happiness, and joy.
At 12:15pm, I hear the familiar ringtone from my computer, time for our virtual match day party! My fellow 4th years shared our new destinations and jumped for joy for one another. For the past four years we’ve been each other’s support system, we’ve laughed together, studied together, cried together, and here we are – the day we’ve been dreaming of has arrived. We finally did it! We are going to be physicians serving communities all over the country. We laughed, shared silly stories and jokes with liners of “remember that time” or “O man I never thought I’d make it past class…” but here we are. We made it! After rounds of laughs and trips down memory lane we said our “see you later and stay safe everyone” farewells and signed off.
The screen shifted to black, I sat in front of my computer, and suddenly once the adrenaline started to wear off, I started to feel reality set in. I was going to be an emergency medicine intern at the epicenter of the pandemic. I began to feel fear. Will I be able to keep up? Will I know what to do when a family member sees MD on my ID badge and is asking for help? Will I get my family members sick when I come home? Suddenly the excitement and joy I felt was overshadowed by fear. A list of what if scenarios one after the other were playing in my mind on repeat.
I muted the fear, at least for that day, and tried to focus on spending time with my sister and nieces who I hadn’t seen for months. I sat around the table with them as we cut the fluorescent pink match day cake they had bought for me. My niece continued to sing a happy “match day” song on repeat and for a moment my doubts were silenced.
I woke up the next morning and I felt different. My world had changed overnight. I was no longer waiting for where I would be spending the next four years. I already knew. My contract offer was signed and emailed. My new EM family welcomed me and the intern group chat was already booming with funny emojis and excitement for meeting each other. I started to feel the familiar mixture of excitement and fear.
I reached out to my fellow 4th years and future co-interns and asked, “is it me or are you guys feeling kind of scared?” We all were prepared for the traditional novice feeling of moving from medical student to doctor. We’ve been reassured about it being completely normal and everyone feels that way, but no one would have imagined that the class of 2020 would have to be prepared for being novices in what has been compared to be a warzone, a fight against time, and an uphill battle to find resources to keep patients alive.
My worries were not just my own. My fellow 4th years shared the same concerns, my co-interns flooded the chat with words of encouragement and funny videos to ease the seriousness we are facing, and mentors began to share that although they felt immense joy for me, they also felt concern and wished me to be safe.
In sharing my fears, I began to feel less afraid. I am not alone in being scared. I am not alone in wanting to help but not being sure how to do so.
To my fellow 4th years who are entering or have already entered the frontlines of this pandemic, you’re not alone. The class of 2020 is resilient and we will make it through this together. Our voices and sharing our stories make us stronger and empower us during these uncertain times.
I congratulate all of the incoming interns and seniors who will soon be attendings for your accomplishments. It is a crazy time to join the emergency medicine family, but we are in this together!
Stay safe, stay resilient.
AAEM Tales of COVID-19
AAEM wants you to have a forum to share your thoughts, emotions, opinions, and stories related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Please consider sharing your ideas with other members so we can get through this crisis together. We will be sharing new stories weekly online and then all stories will appear in the print version of the July/August issue of Common Sense. Submit your story, opinion, artwork, poem, or other work here.