Databases are useful, weight-gain is not.

December 17, 2013

Hello, Readers!

(Warning–confusing post–this would be one to revisit when you’re applying for the residency match when it will make more sense)

Happy Holidays! If you’re not festive yet, I hope the mood strikes soon. Still very happy out in Oklahoma. The weather is cooperating a bit more so it’s not so cold. Loving the pathology I’m getting to see during this elective–look forward to going to work, in fact I’m up late tonight baking cookies for treatment team meeting tomorrow! (Reindeer and Snowman sugar cookies)

I got an email from the school wanting information about my ERAS/NRMP stuff–wanting to know what specialties I was interested in, what programs I had applied to, how many interviews I had so far, etc. and it had been so long since I logged onto ERAS, I had to reset my password, lol. When I did get on there to get numbers for the school, it took a minute to review my programs–ERAS is not particularly user-friendly but you can make a few clicks and inadvertently get to a list of the programs you’ve applied to. Unfortunately, you must keep track on your own of the status of your application with each of those programs–this is where the database [and an app] comes in.

I have this convoluted system, which I thought was working, which was not. So the conclusive list of all 49 programs I applied to is nestled within ERAS in the receipt section of my profile. This list says what type of program–in my case: Psychiatry or Internal Medicine/Psychiatry or Pediatrics/Psychiatry/Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, the name of the program and where the program is situated, and that’s it. There is no spot for you to write notes.

Ah, but there is an app available for iPhone called the NRMP Prism App which you can enter in your individual programs you’ve applied to and it will keep track of them for you, so that whenever you get an interview request/rejection/waitlist, etc., you find that program under your list of programs and update the status. The problem with this system is that you must make sure you enter exactly the programs from ERAS to Prism, but Prism (in addition to ERAS) is confusing.

Prism has every program that has ever existed, ever. Like, even if that program no longer exists. There are many options–Categorical programs, programs for second years, programs for first years, research tracks, rural tracks, etc. Really, your best bet is to look them up by number (an option on the Prism app), but the only problem is that the list that I can [barely] find on ERAS doesn’t list them by number and that would require even more digging. So way back when, in September-October, when I finished submitting my apps and was entering them all in on Prism, I was tired and admittedly lazy, and sort of guessed when I was selecting the programs, hoping I got the right one. Not to get side-tracked, but some of the apathy came after a couple of panic-attacks which were had when this process first began because as Prism is not current, it made me believe there were active programs which I had NOT applied to, which would have been neglectful on my part. (These were not active programs, just records of closed programs or programs who were not taking applicants this year. Always check FRIEDA if in doubt.)

So, come to find out, I did not have some of the right programs selected–ex. I applied to the categorical psychiatry program at School X, which previously had an Internal Medicine/Psychiatry program but which no longer exists, but I got confused, couldn’t remember which one I applied to, or if I applied to both, and thus had added programs to Prism which I didn’t actually apply to. Argh.

So now, when I’m sitting down to give my school my stats, I realize that what I have in ERAS does NOT match what I have on the Prism app. With more energy and time than I had back in September/October, I took a couple of hours and went digging through ERAS, made an updated database in Excel, then compared that with Prism, and now, finally, we’re all on the same page!!! (I’m elated!) I had mistakenly selected some of the wrong programs and entered in that I was rejected at some programs I was still waiting to hear from.

On a related note, the process of finding out whether a program wants to interview you or not occurs via email. You submit your application to programs via ERAS, then when a program has reached a decision about your application, they will send a message to ERAS. When you receive a message in ERAS, it is automatically forwarded to your primary email so that you can view these messages without logging into your ERAS account each time. But, once again, it’s on YOU as an applicant to keep track of these messages and have a system to keep the programs organized–to know which programs you are still waiting to hear from, when you’re supposed to show up for interviews, and which programs to stop bothering because they are not interested in you as an applicant. The more programs you apply to, especially if you apply to different specialties, the more emails you’ll receive. They sort of come in bursts–you’ll go days without hearing anything, then open your email one morning to find 2-3 notices. I guess the process is pretty easy if you just apply to one specialty…

The Prism app is supposed to be a mobile version of my Excel database, without all the trouble. If/when it is updated to reflect only current programs for the current match year, it will be useful, but until then, I recommend creating an excel spreadsheet BEFORE you start the application process, when you’re shopping for programs and getting acquainted with FRIEDA (the AMA’s online, searchable database of CURRENT programs). Also–if Prism ever crashes or you have something happen to your iPhone, you’ll have a back-up with all of your information saved so that you don’t have to go digging through all of your ERAS messages to figure out program correspondence again.

Now that all that fun is straightened out, I wanted to take a minute to remind everyone to incorporate exercise into their day-to-day routine, no matter where they are on the path of becoming a doctor. Silly me, I was exercising pretty regularly in Chicago and maintained a similar weight/clothes size and thought that a little break from regular exercise during my quick 5-week stint in North Carolina would be ok. WRONG! I could tell when I was shopping for business-casual work clothes/interview suits I had put on a little bit of weight but could still wear approximately the same size clothes, just more snugly than before. But then tonight, I made the mistake of throwing on my “skinny jeans” (which had been recently washed) on my way to the library for internet access and HOLY CRAP! These were jeans which fit loosely with room to spare in Chicago. They were SKIN TIGHT tonight! I thought surely this is because they were washed, they’ll stretch. I’ve been squeezed into them for 4 hours now. They’re not stretching. Wow. I feel like a fat cow. It’s amazing what a month off-the-wagon can do to your diet. Whew. My drive to go to the gym is renewed and I think I’ll be sipping on Slim Fast for a while until I can rectify this clothing problem of mine. Sheesh. No cookies for me for a while!


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