Recent Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine graduate Amelia Mackarey, MD, prepares for a triple residency in the face of COVID-19: “My classmates and I went into medicine to serve and care for people — and this is an incredible and unprecedented opportunity to do that.”
Matching for residency — virtually
Match Day is when medical school graduates learn where they’ve been placed for residency and where they’ll spend the next few years gaining clinical experience. Usually, it’s a festive experience with graduates gathered in the school’s lobby, surrounded by family and friends while they open their envelopes from the National Resident Matching Program. This year, because of social distancing requirements due to COVID-19, medical schools across the country held their Match Days virtually. Instead of opening their letters together, the students each received an emailed PDF file.
Dr. Mackarey admits that it was disappointing to have the in-person event canceled, but she completely understands why it was necessary. “We’ve trained to be physicians, so we really understand the importance of following the CDC’s guidelines and putting the public, and our patients, first,” she says.
Adapting to change
And if COVID-19 disrupted Match Day, imagine how residencies might be affected. Didactics, which are usually large group lectures, are being restructured to accommodate smaller groups — and are sometimes being held as Zoom meetings. “Many of my good friends have already started their residencies,” Dr. Mackarey explains. “I’ve heard of many different approaches that limit group sizes and time spent in the hospital. There are so many changes happening right now and we will all have to be flexible.”
Dr. Mackarey’s Psychiatric residency will likely involve more telemedicine appointments than it might have before COVID-19, and many of her patients may be dealing with anxiety and depression brought on by fears surrounding COVID-19 and the isolation it has demanded of them.
Her Pediatric residencies will still, for the most part, involve in-person visits. “The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is still recommending that children under 2 come in for their milestone and well-baby visits,” says Dr. Mackarey. “Time spent in waiting rooms will be limited to avoid exposure, and families may be asked to wait in their cars until appointment time. For children older than 2 years old, the AAP is recommending telemedicine visits or delaying appointments when possible.” She adds that as far as behavioral health goes, the children who are being forced to stay home and miss their regular activities and routines are now facing new challenges and stresses.
Even with COVID-19 affecting just about everything now, Dr. Mackarey is looking forward to starting her residencies. “My classmates and I went into medicine to serve and care for people — and this is an incredible and unprecedented opportunity to do that,” she says.