(Story updated at 3:10 p.m. ET.)
More than 27,000 new doctors and medical-school seniors Friday learned where they will undergo their residency training.
Many simultaneously opened their letters with classmates at noon Eastern time in Match Day ceremonies across the country, the culmination of a frantic week.
The National Resident Matching Program uses a computer algorithm to align applicants' choices with those of residency program directors. This year's record-high pool of 41,334 registered applicants learned Monday whether they had matched at all with the record-high 30,212 residency positions being offered.
“I owe $299K in med school loans,” Marin McCutcheon, a senior at the Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, tweeted Monday. “Terrifying to think that #NRMP could've told me today that I will not work as a physician next yr.”
There were 1,306 unfilled positions; 1,193 were then offered in the subsequent Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program. Program directors with unfilled positions made offers to unmatched applicants at noon Eastern time Wednesday. Applicants had two hours to accept or reject. Another round of offers was made at 3 p.m. This process continued with another three rounds of offers Thursday.
Only 64 positions were left vacant after that process was completed, said Mona Signer, NRMP president and CEO. The SOAP process has brought some structure to filling unmatched positions, she said.
“It's certainly a more orderly process than what used to be known as 'the scramble,'” she said.
There were a total of 30,212 positions offered in this year's match. This included 27,293 first-year positions, 2,698 second-year positions, and 221 “Physician (R)” positions that are available to applicants who already had some prior graduate medical education training.
Applications were up 2.3% (940) and there was a 1.8% increase in positions offered (541) from 2014.
The applicant pool included 18,025 seniors in U.S. allopathic (M.D.) medicine programs, a 3.7% increase (651) from last year; 1,520 graduates of U.S. allopathic programs, an 8.5% decrease (142) from 2014; 2,949 graduates or students of osteopathic medical schools; 5,014 U.S. citizens attending international medical schools; and 7,366 foreign students or graduates of international schools.
A record 16,932 seniors (93.9%) at U.S. allopathic schools were matched, an almost 3.3% increase from 2014. The 2,339 matched students and graduates of osteopathic schools represented a 79.3% match rate. An additional 1,997 osteopathic students and graduates were matched in a Feb. 9 event.
Aside from pediatrics, however, seniors at U.S. allopathic programs will only make up a minority of the residents in primary-care graduate medical education programs.
There were 6,770 internal medicine positions offered; 98.9% were filled, but only 49% by U.S. seniors. Similarly, there were 3,195 family medicine positions offered, 95.1% were filled, but only 44% by U.S. seniors.
There were 2,668 pediatric residency programs offered; 99.5% were filled, with 70.8% going to U.S. seniors.
In contrast, U.S. seniors filled 94.3% of the 703 residency positions offered for orthopedic surgery, the highest-paying specialty.
“That's been a trend for years,” Signer said of primary care's failure to attract more students from U.S. schools. “Would we like to see that trend reversed? Obviously.”
Signer, however, cited as a positive trend that most of the new positions being offered were in primary care, including 246 in internal medicine, 86 in family medicine and 28 more in pediatrics.
Other specialties seeing increases in first-year residency positions included anesthesiology, with 45 new positions; emergency medicine, with 35 positions; psychiatry, with 31; and surgery, 19.
“This is the biggest match we've ever had—it's astonishing to me, the number of applicants,” Signer said. “What I see here is a positive trend toward more primary-care physicians and that we're still in a good place for having the number of positions we need for U.S. graduates—but not every graduate will have a position for the specialty of his or her choice.”
Another record this year was the number of physicians who participated in the match as couples. The number of couples in the match increased almost 11.9% to 1,035 and they had a 94.8% match rate.