Preparing for Residency

How to navigate the Match as a couple

Brendan Murphy , Senior News Writer

Match is one of the most important experiences in a physician’s life—it determines where you work, sleep and live for some of the most crucial years of your medical career. If you’re in a relationship and want to go through the Match as a couple, it can be even more difficult.

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Learn how to navigate the Couples Match with tips from someone who has been through it.

In its early stages, students applying for the Couples Match follow a similar application process as their colleagues. Individuals must register separately with the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP), then request to match as a couple. They also notify the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) that they are matching as a couple.

The real stress kicks in once couples begin traveling for program interviews and both partners have to coordinate their rank order lists of preferred programs.

The National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) links both match lists and will only match couples to the most preferred pair of programs on their rank order lists where each partner has been offered a position.

This means that mates have to submit the same number of ranked programs, agree on how they’d like to pair and rank their preferred programs, and then hope each of their paired respective programs accepts them.

Partners can apply for different specialties, programs or institutions, but to successfully match as a couple, both applicants must be matched to the same set of programs they paired on their rank-order lists. If they do not obtain a match as a couple, the NRMP will not process their lists separately to find a possible match for each individual.

However, there is one caveat to this rule: Applicants can choose to go “unmatched” on their rank order lists, which indicates that they’re not to match to any program even if their mates are admitted to their preferred programs.

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Generally, couples have matched well. This year, 1,076 couples submitted combined rank-order list as part of the Couples Match, matching at a 95% clip.

Jonathon Judkins, MD, and his girlfriend Katie Sacotte, MD, participated in the Couples Match as fourth-year medical students at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. They matched into residency programs at Oregon Health & Science University. Dr. Judkins is a first-year resident at OHSU’s internal medicine residency program, while Dr. Sacotte is training in pediatrics.

“Leaning on each other while we were both going through the process was stressful,” Dr. Judkins said. ”We definitely both made compromises when we made our rank lists. But we did a good job realizing what was important to the other person, and we're both really satisfied with how it turned out in the end.”