internship tips: navigating the match edition, part two

Hi there everyone!

So you've decided you want to sign up for the match. Congratulations (sort of)! Next comes the part where you sift through the hundreds (yes) of potential internships and decide which ones might be for you. Here are some hints to help you with that:

1. Sit down with yourself and figure out why you're doing an internship.

If you are doing an internship as a prerequisite for a residency, know that academic internships and fancy/famous private practice internships (read: the AMC, Angell Memorial, etc.) are rumored to better your chances for matching to a residency.

This is because these institutions are well-established, (usually) well-respected, and oftentimes have residencies in various specialties as well. Some institutions take their own rotating interns back as residents (hey, the devil you know...), and some prefer not to do that.

The tradeoff is that your hours will be unbelievably, potently terrible, and you will (probably) spend a large amount of time watching other people do cool things instead of doing them yourself. It will be so crowded at the operating table.

If your goal is to learn how to be a veterinarian in a practical sense so you can be a solid general practitioner or ER doctor, I would strongly consider a solid private practice internship. You will (usually) see more cases, get more hands-on experience, and get to do more cool things yourself.

I did my rotating internship at a well-established (but not fancy/famous) private practice internship. As such, I spent absurd amounts of time working in the emergency room, saw many many many cases, and got to unblock more cats, enucleate more eyes, do more bone marrow aspirates, drive the bus during more endoscopies, practice more ultrasounds, repair more wounds, figure out more weirdass 4 am puzzles, and help with more dog and cat CPRs than the average academic intern.

At an academic hospital, the chiefs of service are doing their research, seeing some cases, and lecturing. They are also training the residents, the vet students, +/- the specialty interns, and the rotating interns.

At a private practice, the chiefs of service are seeing their cases and You're (usually) not jockeying with a herd of residents, students, and other interns for various opportunities. It is awesome.

2. Next, figure out what factors matter to you.

Some people care about location. Do you want to be on the East Coast? Only in California? Only in places with appropriate attitudes re: the excellent variety of sexualities and gender presentations?

Do you care about having protected days off? What about vacation? Health care (Hint: you should care about these things, especially health care).

What about the percentage of time you'll spend working overnights? Will someone be with you on your overnights? If you're interested in neurology, it's probably important that you have access to a neurologist during your rotating internship.

You can use all of these and more to help you narrow your list of possible options. Be aware that there's no organization that oversees all of these internships and ensures that they treat/train their interns in a reasonable manner. Pretty much any place can register with the match and offer an "internship", which leads us to...

3. Once you have a preliminary list of practices - call, e-mail, visit.

Many places allow you to extern (spend a couple of weeks shadowing) to get a feel for the practice and how it works. If you can, arrange to do this at your top choices. It will be so very worth it.

If you can't extern or visit, make sure to call and speak with your potential boss/intern director and/or a current intern. DO NOT SKIP the "speaking with a current intern" part. Current interns are the most useful resource you have in your quest to determine if any given program is an earnest, enthusiastic training program for new grads, or a shithole salt mine that will tear away at the fabric of your sanity.

Ask the current interns if they like their job. Ask them what they like least about it, and if they would do it again. A favorite mentor of mine says it is easy to damn with faint praise, so be on the lookout for non-committal or evasive answers that are secretly your signal to run. The average intern will be tired, stressed, and out of patience, but if she can't say that the program is fair, forthright, and good training, don't rank it.

You guys, make sure you don't assume anything. Ask.

ALSO! Once more, so you realize how insanely important this is:


internship tips: navigating the match edition, part one

Hiiii you guys! So you've decided (perhaps via the flow chart in the last post) that you want to do an internship. Hooray!

First, an aside: Large animal (particularly equine) folks, your internships are by and large not organized through the match (some academic ones are). Search the AAEP website, consult with your peers, and do externships AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE in your clinical year. Some crazy folks even do externships before clinical year. You generally have to do an externship (think two weeks at least) at a hospital to be considered for an internship. That is the sum total of what I remember about getting an equine internship before I switched teams, so aaaanyways, the following guide is mostly for small animal internships.

Okay, so almost all small animal internships are applied for and obtained through the AAVC's Veterinary Internship and Residency Matching Program, aka the match. Residencies also (except anatomic pathology, since those folks are on their own drumbeat).

The match is a computer database and...algorithm that tries to match hundreds of internship programs with the candidates that best suit them (and vice versa). Here is a quick and dirty rundown of how it works:

1. In approximately October, you sign up for the match. You choose an initial "tier" to buy, or number of programs you can apply to. At the time of this writing, applying to 10 or fewer programs costs $85, applying to 11-20 programs costs $250, and applying to >21 programs costs $350. You can upgrade at any time, but you cannot downgrade.

2. You have to fill in some information (where you went to school, GPA, class rank, upload resume, upload application essay...) to complete your application package. This is due by approximately December.

3. You also have to get 3-4 (hopefully) smart, influential veterinarians to write you recommendations, all of which are also due by approximately December.

4. You then apply to a number of internship programs (see tier, above), and rank them according to your preference. This rank order list gets finalized at some point and you get an official-looking e-mail to confirm your decision.

5.You panic for two months, during which time the institutions are arranging and finalizing their ranked lists of candidates.

6. In mid-February, Match Day happens. This is when the match algorithm pairs each candidate with their best-suited internship program, as determined by "highest mutual level of preference". There is an explanation on the VIRMP website that is pretty good, but essentially, the institutions make offers (in the running of the algorithm) to their most preferred candidates, and the algorithm moves down the ranked lists until all positions have been filled or all candidates have been "offered" a job.

The intention is that you will match with your highest-ranked program that has a position to offer you, as determined by the programs' ranking of you as a candidate. You will never match with a program that you did not rank, and you will never match with a program that did not rank you.

Here is my first and perhaps most important piece of match advice:

***Do not rank a place where you would not want to go! If in your mind, "no internship" is better than "internship at Shitty Practice", DO NOT RANK "Shitty Practice"!***

7. There are intense, career-altering, being-banned-from-the-match-for-three-years sorts of ramifications for candidates that match to a place and then do not follow through on accepting the internship.

8. If you do not match, you enter a process called "the scramble". This is where all the unmatched candidates and programs desperately try to find each other, like lost lambs and panicked sheep in a crowded sale barn. There are apparently many frantic phone calls, e-mails, and hurried job offers flying back and forth.

Doesn't it sound like fun? Ugh.

internship tips: should i do an internship?

okay, cool:

Cubicle Administrative Person: "In order to activate your university card, you'll have to come by our office. We're open from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, Monday to Friday."

Alacrity: "So, my workday completely encompasses those hours. Could I activate my card over the phone?"

CAP: "Why can't you just come on your lunch hour?"

A: "I work in a hospital. I don't have a lunch hour."

CAP: "Oh. Well, you just need to figure out a time to swing by."


Technician 1: "Hey, have you seen [the oncologist]?"

Technician 2: "Yes, he's...(looks out window) a kennel?"

(oncology resident walks over to oncologist)

Resident: "Dude! What are you doing?"

(oncologist is cleaning a kennel, wearing slacks and a pressed shirt)

Oncologist (turns on hose): "There's shit here. And here. There's actually shit everywhere."

mmm, delicious:

Alacrity: "So Internal Medicine is in charge of the emergency service these days, about which I'm sure they are super excited."

Oncologist: "Ha! Yeah...can we just make IM deal with all of our shit sandwiches henceforth?"

internship tips: moving across the country edition

Hey friends!

As previously mentioned, I just moved across the country. I've started my oncology internship (which, btdubs, could not possibly be more different from my last internship), and today seems like an excellent day for a collection of moving tips for you:

1) Find a place to live.

It's actually much harder to rent an apartment long-distance than it is when you're moving from one local-ish place to another. Unless you have many dollars, it's probably cost-prohibitive to fly back and forth to look at potential places/meet potential landlords and/or roommates.

Landlords are more reluctant to rent to you (see: what if you see the place and instantly hate it when you get here?), and potential roomies are somewhat hesitant about signing you on (see: she seems okay on Skype, but what if she's actually horrible in person?). It's just easier for everyone to rent to local folks.

So! Jump on that. Search early and often. I'm a fan of craigslist, but others prefer sites with a broader net (such as Padmapper). Decide on your nonnegotiables (no basement apartments? rent < a certain $$? close to school or work), and call/email listings that look promising right away.

2) Get rid of your shit.

No, seriously. You probably have a lot of shit.  If you are legitimately moving across the country (or a similar distance), it's gonna be more expensive if you still have a lot of shit come moving day. Make a "thrift store" box, a "sell" box, a "throw away" box, and get sorting.

3) Decide how you're going to get there.

Are you driving? Renting a moving van? Flying? Flying and selling your car? Flying and shipping your car? Taking the train? Decide which mode of getting yourself to your new city works best for your lifestyle, traveling companion(s), and budget.

4) Decide how your belongings are going to get there.

I'm going to tell you something (as this person has already mentioned) - Amtrak is a secretly excellent way to ship your non-electronic, non-furniture items. I shipped 38 boxes across the continental US, and it cost just under $500. At the time of this writing, the cost was $72 for the first 100 pounds, with each additional pound costing 73 cents.

In theory, you cannot ship more than 500 pounds per shipment - however, at the Amtrak station I used, the gentleman did not enforce this. You also are not supposed to ship furniture or electronics (anything with a cord). The maximum size of a box is 36"x36" - bike boxes are exempt from this, but they count as their own shipment (I'm not 100% clear on the bike rules, as I did not send my Surly on the train). The boxes arrived when they were supposed to, and only one box had some minimal damage. Winning!

5) If at all possible, set aside some funds for the move.

There will be a fair few planned expenses (travel, shipping, +/- hotel, takeout after you pack your kitchen, etc) as well as some surprises. Any cash you're able to save for moving and associated costs will help reduce your panic and make the process a bit easier.


Hey Everyone!

So, some things have happened over the last month or so.

I finished my internship.

I sold my car.


And I moved across the country.


I'm starting an oncology internship at a university hospital, which is super exciting. This is a specialty internship, which is sort of like my last internship except with more oncology and less ER (also hopefully a step towards an oncology residency).

I start tomorrow. Wish me luck!