Reflecting on my CaRMS Experience: Couples Matching and Finding Community in a New City

Posted on March 13, 2018

By Dr. Kiran Dhillon

Having just gone through the CaRMS recruitment process within my program and as the end of my time in residency approaches, I’ve been reflecting a lot recently on my own CaRMS experience and what it was like moving to a new city with my partner to start our careers as physicians.

My CaRMS experience was not a typical one, as I couples matched with my partner. He is in Internal Medicine and I am in Family Medicine. We could not have been more pleased with how our match turned out, but during the CaRMS process, it certainly was full of emotion and anxiety. I would be lying if I said some tears weren’t shed on my behalf due to stress and uncertainty. Couples matching is a huge commitment to your partner – I remember one of my medical school classmates saying to me, “if you’re couples matching, you’re basically getting engaged.” While I don’t agree with that statement entirely, the match can test relationships and can force you to do some serious thinking about the future. Family opinions certainly came into play during our match process and that added another layer of expectation and stress. Not to mention, the interview frenzy that many people who couple match go through; I think I ended up spending $1600 on application fees, had over 10 interviews and ranked over 700 match combinations. Thankfully, our match worked out for us because we were able to prioritize our relationship and our education in a way that worked well for us. I should probably add, we did end up getting engaged, so perhaps I did underestimate the truth of my friend’s words!

Then came the next step of moving to Edmonton. In many ways, couples matching was a blessing in this respect, as my best friend was moving with me. We were also fortunate enough to have many of our colleagues from UBC join us in Edmonton for residency. We had a social network in the city right from the beginning. However, not all residents share in that good fortune; many new residents are moving to an entirely new city where they may not know anyone at all.

Social well-being is incredibly important to our physical, emotional and mental health and plays a key role in preventing burnout so that we can be effective physicians and learners. Residency is stressful enough as it is, but imagine trying to go through it alone and in an unfamiliar place. That’s why I think it’s incredibly important for programs and for us as individual residents to reach out to newcomers in our medical family.

Although I did have some existing social connections with my peers upon moving to Edmonton, I also had the chance to develop new friendships. Looking back, I think the following were important steps I made to meet new people and would encourage any resident who is looking to find new friends in a new city to try them out. Here are some of the things that helped me to find my own sense of community in a new city:

  • Grab some drinks after work. Residency is a lot of work and even though we are interacting with our peers on the wards, we are often too busy looking after our patients to really get to know one another. Why not grab a drink with one another at the end of the day to get to know each other more on a personal level? It can also be a great way to let off some steam to an understanding audience after a stressful day of clinical duties.
  • Attend events. Individual programs often hold wellness/social events and of course PARA is always organizing great events and activities to bring resident physicians together as well! Again, this is a great way to meet new colleagues and try something you might not otherwise think to try. Another perk is that these events are often low-commitment, one-time events. Regular weekly classes and activities can be hard to commit to with on-call duties and unpredictable schedules, so these are often great events for a busy resident.
  • Get involved. My most meaningful new friendships have been formed from meeting people through my extra-curricular endeavours. It can be nice to work with your peers on a non-clinical project to add some variety to what we do on a daily basis.
  • Join an intramural team. Edmonton is great for having a very active intramural sports league. There are often many resident teams that are always looking for more members to put together a full team, as regular attendance at games can be difficult with unpredictable call schedules.
  • Look after yourself. Socializing is not going to seem very appealing if you’re burnt out and in need of sleep. Keeping up on your rest, finding time for exercise and ensuring that you’re not skipping meals will give you the energy needed to get to know new people and to allow other people to get to know you!

We as current residents can also help our new colleagues in their social wellness. Match Day has just passed and in a few short months we will have new residents joining us from across the country. When July 1 comes around, let’s remember to welcome these new residents to our medical family so that they can be successful in their personal and professional lives.

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Dr. Kiran Dhillon is a PGY 2 in Family Medicine. You can read her full profile here.

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