Monday, May 10, 2010

Once upon a time...

Okay, everybody, let's take the Way-Back Machine to the early 1990's, when 4th year medical student Dr. Grumpy is interviewing for residency.

After medical school, young docklings go off to residency in our chosen fields.

But before we get into residency (through a mysterious process called "the match") we go off on interviews. Just like any other job.

I did my share of these interviews, traveling to 7 neurology programs in the early 90's to peddle my wares. These aren't quite as stressful as medical school interviews (for those you're begging them to take you, while for residency they need you & you need them, so both sides are trying in impress each other).

And this is the story of my least impressive interview:

I'd flown into the city the night before, and spent a relaxing night at a Motel 6.

The interview instructions said I was to begin by attending the Shitzenfuk Hospital Neurology conference at 7:30 a.m. This was several miles from the residency program's main hospital. And they actually told me to "ask around when you get there, and find a doctor willing to drive you back to our offices after the meeting".

So I took a cab from my motel to the hospital, and found the auditorium. Here I am, in a strange city, dragging my overnight bag around, with a bunch of docs who I don't know and who don't know me, and I'm walking around trying to bum a ride. Finally, after several looked at me like I was a sexual predator, one finally said. "Okay, I'm heading that way. I guess I can give you a ride."

Guess what? He turned out to be the freakin' chairman of the program I was interviewing at! He'd signed the letter telling me to bum a ride. You'd think he could have offered initially, since he knew I'd be there, but no.

So we walk out to his car. Mind you, I'm not a car person. I don't expect doctors to be driving expensive things (my own car is a 2000 Nissan), but was still shocked by Dr. Chairman's mean set of wheels.

It was an early 70's Japanese something. Missing the right front fender. The trunk was half open, held down by a bungee cord threaded through a rust-hole.

I opened the passenger door. And a pile of empty soda cans, newspapers, fast food containers, orange peels, and heaven knows what else, fell out. Dr. Chairman said "sorry, let me clear that off" and began chucking the pile of garbage into the back seat (which was already covered with trash).

And off we went. It was December, and cold. My window was open. I tried rolling it up, but he said, "there's no window there, it broke years ago." The heat didn't work, either. So I was shivering away, with my overnight bag on my lap (no space for it anywhere else in the car). I hoped his driving skills were better than his car-care talents, because my seatbelt didn't work.

So we got to Neurology HQ. Where Ms. Bitchy at the desk (Dr. Chairman abandoned me as soon as we walked in) claimed I hadn't been invited for an interview, even when I showed her my letter. Eventually she realized she was looking at the previous week's schedule, and blamed me for having handed her the wrong schedule (which she'd actually pulled out of her own damn desk).

Then it was time for my tour of the esteemed facilities. Ms. Bitchy directed me down a hall, and told me someone would meet me there.

Fortunately, one did. It was a nice guy named Pete, who (allegedly) was the chief resident. We talked for a minute in the middle of the building's lobby, which had white pillars everywhere, and halls leading in different directions.

After giving me a brief summary of the areas we'd be going to, Pete said, "It's a beautiful hospital. Follow me." He then turned around and walked straight into a pillar, breaking his glasses.

I helped Pete up, while some other guys in white coats ran over to try and stop the blood now pouring out of his nose.

As they led him away, Pete told me to wait in the lobby. A few minutes later Ms. Bitchy showed up, leading a girl in scrubs who'd apparently been on call the night before, and looked (understandably) less then enthusiastic about showing me around. It was a pretty quick tour.

Afterwards I had an interview with a doctor, who used most of our interview time to return patient calls. He also called Mastercard to argue about some charges, which he blamed on his ex-wife.

Then it was (per the schedule) lunch with the residents. None showed up. It was me and 3 attending physicians. Ms. Bitchy, the secretary-from-hell, had only ordered 3 lunches. She gave one to each of the doctors, and told me where I could find the hospital cafeteria.

I just went hungry, and spoke to the doctors. One of them told me he thought the newfangled MRA technology was a passing fad.

Then it was another interview. This time with Dr. Chairman of the crappy car. Who'd inexplicably left for the day. No one knew where he'd gone, or why.

Thus ended the interview. Ms. Bitchy told me she'd arrange a ride for me back to the airport, but given her remarkable organizational skills displayed thus far, I declined. She wouldn't let me use the phone on her desk, so I found a pay phone and called a cab.

I ranked them last. I have no idea where they ranked me. And no, I didn't go there.


The Good Cook said...

One can only hope their patient care was somewhat better than their resident program. Or better yet, I'm hoping that hospital closed shortly after your interview.

iamdirx said...

If thats anything like the pharmacy match program, even by ranking them wouldn't you run the slight chance of not matching any other places and being stuck there?

Grumpy, M.D. said...

Correct. I ranked them last, but considered going there to be a better option than being unemployed, and scrambling for a residency.

OMDG said...

How depressing. A friend of mine on the Neurology interview circuit this year told me of how she was berated by a certain chairman about how he thought these interviews were a waste of his time and how on earth she felt qualified to interview there. I don't think she ranked them.

And then, I remember the pediatrician at my first med school interview who spent 90% of her time on the phone with her husband discussing what toys to buy her kids for Christmas.

So tacky.

Anonymous said...

LOL. I just laughed so hard I had to stop and catch my breath. The resident walking into the pillar just killed me. And it seems as if common curtesy was not on the secretary for hell's planet.

I had a job interview like this once. I was at a church where the members were going on (and on) about how georgous the church interiour was, and it was this horrible combination of 80s powder blue, and gold and orange from the 60s. It was hideous looking and I was internally combusting trying not to burst out laughing after three hours. I was in such a hurry to get home afterwards that I managed to get a flat tire while trying to back up to a pump at the gas station. Luckily I didn't have to get my car towed, but it was pretty bad.


Fizzy said...

Thanks a lot. Now everyone in the room is staring at me, trying to figure out why I just burst out laughing randomly. :P

That was great though. I can't even begin to compete.

The Mother said...

Sometimes, you just know you've found your true home...

jamiegirl said...

And hospitals that have so many position open wonder why they just can't fill them or keep them filled? As always, you bring the laughter to my day Dr.G. =)

vicki said...

i think this is where they prep some of the secretaries that work in different sections of the hospital. i think i've met her here in oklahoma... the one that asks the patients "who is your doctor" when she can't find you on the surgery schedule ... "are you sure you have the right day" then show her my slip of paper that proves i am in the right place at the right time ... what an airhead

NY_FP_Doc said...

Reminds me of when my partner and I were interviewing for the match. We interviewed one hospital that was pretty surreal. My partner and I interviewed together in this program, and one of the interviews was with a psychologist from their psych department. Somebody forgot to tell him that the '60's were over.. long gray ponytail, sandals, the works. He spent half the time hitting on my partner. I sat there trying not to bust a gut laughing, as she had no idea she was being hit on. The residents all looked exhausted, and at lunch they showed us their hospital census - which was huge. The clinic a mess and they're expecting the new clinic to be build "any time now".. right. I was supposed to be impressed by the number of night's I'd be up all night on the OB service.

We both got on the train to home, looked at each other, and said "NOT IN THIS LIFETIME!"

Grumpy, by the sound of how your day with them went, you actually would have been better off scrambling.

Grumpy, M.D. said...

I matched at my #1, so I"m happy.

Anonymous said...

And I thought the interview after my residency was poor. The Assistant Director of the Phamacy Department for White Ivory Tower Teaching Institution took me to lunch at a mall and then shopping as he wanted to get his wife some lingerie. He suggested I purchase some for my girl friend who was a resident at said institution at the time. Needless to say neither of us (my wife or I) worked there. She left after her residency and I accepted a position at another hospital.

Cate said...

um, that sounds horrific... how on earth did they expect to attract any decent candidates??

RehabNurse said...

Hey, what's with neuro chiefs driving crappy cars?

I went to see the neuro chief of a major VA out of town and rode in his/her car after a program.

The ride: Old Swedish car with headliner falling down and that whiff of antifreeze that comes from a) a head gasket ready to blow or b) a heater core leaking (didn't see the water though). Thankfully, we made it to the hotel alive. I also told him/her to see the mechanic ASAP and watch for clouds behind the car.

Neuro chief's excuse: I had to drive this (to a major downtown restaurant on the water--super fancy) because no one else would this morning. This was apparently the "kids" car.

I had a "character" car like this college.

Our neuro chief drives various clown cars (imagine someone over six foot in an el cheapo compact with loads of fingerprints).

Guess I got a realtuda (or real attitude...word verification.) ;-P

Beth Nelsen said...

When I was interviewing four years ago I had a similar snafu. I was given directions from the hotel to the hospital for the interview. Unfortunately, they didn't take into account that most of the interstates in that city were under construction at the time. By the grace of a power higher than myself I found the hospital and ran in...only to find no information desk or anything. I can't remember how I found the peds office but when I did, I was ushered into the program director's office, where I was seated at a small round table with four other applicants to watch a powerpoint off the director's computer about the program.

After that, we went to "EBM skills" for the residents. That was the biggest joke. Our EBM is laughable but this was beyond that. The residents just flat out didn't care at all.

I then had two interviews. One was with a doc whose son went to college in my hometown and all he could talk about was the basketball team. He also brought up stuff I did in college (I went to grad school in between college and med school). My next interview was either so bland or so horrible I've blocked it from memory.

Lunch was with unenthusiastic residents. The tour showed me why - their inpatient service is so busy there's not enough residents to divide the work properly. I'm pretty sure they were violating work hours.

At one point, one of the applicants asked if knowing Spanish was a pre-req for employment (this was a program in an area with a heavily populated with Hispanic families). When we went to the clinic that was about 10 minutes off-site, we learned that 75% of the clinic population is Spanish-speaking.

When we were returned to the hospital, I said my adieus to everyone and laid rubber out of there. I didn't end up ranking them.

terri c said...

And now all these folks are your patients?

Albinoblackbear said...

Nice one. Wow. Sounds classy.

And you didn't even know way back when that someday the whole event would be excellent blog fodder.


I will probably end up doing my residency there so I shouldn't laugh.

Being a lowly IMG I'll be lucky to get into "Discount Jim's Residency Skool of Medicine for Kids Who Can't Read Good".

Anonymous said...

I have a BA in psych. I am so glad, after reading this, that I never went any further with my education. :-o

Anonymous said...

You're treated a little bit nicer in academia. That is, you are carted around by different people who are arranged by schedule to take care of you and ask you a million questions about your research and teaching. Since it's not a match, they decide which of the candidates to hire, and the chosen candidate either decides yeah or nay. If it's you, you often get a phone call. If it's not you, you often never get a letter saying they hired someone else. Either way, academics move like drunken snails. It's impossible to know if and when they will make a decision or scape the hiring lot and start all over again. But, actually, your whole experience is much worse than anything I've described. The "Please find your way to this place and then get a ride to another place" is so not right. Yes, it sounds like the majority of people at that hospitals were "Not Rights." ha!

ERP said...

Let me guess, The Brigham?

Anonymous said...

That reminded me of the fellowship interview where they gave me directions to the WRONG hospital! (They have two.) And they blamed me for the SNAFU!

Anonymous said...

I did the residency interview by phone because of no money, but ended up liking their program a lot.

But, the first hospital pharmacy job interview was a riot-o-fun. The director was quite a charminly opinionated conversationalist and bigoted as only we in the wheatfields of the mid-east can be, and chauvinistic to boot as the pharmacy secretary related to me he'd asked her once about dyeing her hair. He gave me no room for confidence when he confessed that he used his commute from another town to read the morning paper. While I was there the State Board of Pharmacy came in and busted another interviewing pharmacist on-site for spotting herself a liberal stash of cocaine under her previous employer.

I hadn't thought of this for a long time, and find it amusing to recall how naive I was at the time!

Anonymous said...

This is hilarious... (as is the rest of the blog). Early 2000s, I interviewed at one of the "top" psychiatry programs in the north east. The staff and doctors were so rude.

They interviewed 15 candidates that day but started by saying that all of us except three (the three who happened to have attended public med schools... hey, I could have gone Ivy but I sort of liked the full tuition scholarship + stipiend my state school gave me) would meet with the program and associate program directors for interviews. Honestly, if the PD does not want to interview you, why invite the candidate to interview?

One interviewer reviewing my extracurricular interests told me that my interest in writing was "stupid" because I was not a published novelist yet (I did have some published short stories, nonfiction pieces).

I got yelled at for taking water from the water cooler. I was told it was for "real applicants" and sent to a nasty water fountain down the hall.

They gave lunch to all the applicants..... except three of us.

Seriously, they were so unprofessional that it was not surprising their program rhymed with Hell (although it began with Y).

(I did not rank them. Went on to go to another top program and fellowship.)

Anonymous said...

My other favorite residency interview experience -- and this program will remain anonymous because I really liked them and they were all great people who I think had great intentions in trying to make me feel welcome and accepted.

Somehow from reviewing my application and extracurricular, they had concluded I was a lesbian. As Seinfeld would have said, "not that there is anything wrong with that", but I'm straight. It shouldn't matter but they sent me up to interview with every gay/lesbian resident or faculty member (who all announced their orientation to me early in the interview).

I didn't think too much of it until part way through an interview with an attending who worked in a subspeciality area I was interested in who asked me "How hard has it been to be a lesbian medical student in your conservative-state-name omitted?". I think I gave a vague answer about I think it is important that a school accept and support all students and that I was pleased with my experiences at my medical school.

I got a follow-up card from the PD (they were recruiting me pretty heavily) telling me how happy that I would be there as a lesbian psychiatry resident. They had added a rainbow sticker to the card.

I really liked the program, but didn't rank them, because... well, I read up on much about residency interview etiquette but did not see how to address this particular issue. It was good to know though that it was a program that would be supportive of its residents!

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