Flip Flop Flee

Sigh. So much has happened since last week, I don’t even know where to start.

I guess, a little background and then some backtracking and then some explaining.

So, for all medical residencies and most fellowships, there is a match process. It’s kind of confusing, but physicians apply to programs, either do or don’t get interviews based on their resume, interview and then rank the programs. The programs rank the candidates and then some weird computer program spits out the match. Once you’re placed, it’s done. You don’t get to change your mind, if you rank a program, you are saying you’ll go there if you match there. It’s complex initially, but the results are clean and easy. Just the way I like them.

Naturally, my husband’s fellowship for next year is not part of the match. It has this horribly obnoxious rolling application process with no deadlines and no details and some programs have already got their fellows for 2015 and others are just starting the application process for 2014 (programs start July 1), but no one says this outright and yea, hot mess.

So my husband has been applying and interviewing for months. And last Saturday, he was offered a fellowship at a New York hospital and given 5 days to decide. Everyone agreed this was kind of a weird timeframe since the fellowship doesn’t begin for 8 months, but it was what it was. So my husband contacted the 2 other programs he was waiting on and would pick over the New York program and told them about the offer. He got an immediate reply from one who said basically, we don’t have the funding, don’t wait on us. And the other never replied. Which is horribly obnoxious.

On Monday night, a few days early, my husband made a decision and sent an email agreeing to the fellowship in New York. It wasn’t our first choice, but our first choice had been ignoring emails for months and we got tired of waiting. And ultimately, we can make anything work and we were feeling largely positive about the decision.

So naturally, on Friday morning, my husband got an email offering him a fellowship at his #1 choice, which also happens to be in Southern California. And 25 minutes from my current job. And it’s everything we’ve ever wanted. 4 days late.

So my husband spoke with several of his Attendings and basically presented his predicament. Every single one of them said he should take the California program and that people back out of these fellowships regularly (which is why they need to be part of the match because it’s ridiculous that everyone gets offers at different times and timelines and aaaaaah). He hadn’t signed any kind of contract with New York (they hadn’t even discussed it, nor presented him with one), so while it’s not the most ethically great thing to do, it’s not out of the ordinary and it shouldn’t be a big deal. That program would just offer the spot to the next person in line. Everyone was thrilled, life was good. My husband accepted the Southern California spot (and told them he was backing out of another program, to which they said, oh that happens all the time), and on the recommendation of his boss, waited until Monday (as it was late Friday by this point), to call New York to tell them.

And here’s where shit gets interesting and complicated and why on earth can’t things just be easy?

New York said no. Like, no you can’t back out. They said they told their other guy no, so my husband can’t back out. And we’re like, wait, what? And look, we realize, all of us, that backing out is a professionally not awesome thing to do. No one is trying to beat around the bush on that. It’s embarrassing, it feels crappy and it’s lousy to do to them. No one here is feeling proud about it. But, the California fellowship is better academically and it’s better for our family and, people back out of these fellowships for this very reason ALL THE TIME. Like, no one even batted an eye when they told my husband to back out and take the other one and without their advice, he wouldn’t have done it.

But New York is saying no and we have NO IDEA what to do about that. They’re going to call their #2 choice and if that person says no, I have really no idea what happens. Legally my husband has no obligation to go anywhere at this point. No contracts have been signed, no details hammered out, but there is an ethical issue and if New York can’t fill it’s spot, my husband has an ethical obligation to go.


But he doesn’t want to.

We would be fine in New York. We would survive and it would be no big deal. But it’s just, it really sucks. The whole situation sucks. It sucks that the California program couldn’t email him earlier in the week. It sucks that the New York program is being strict and that my husband now both looks and feels like a totally unprofessional asshole, when he was heeding the advice of seasoned physicians who have dealt with this for decades.

And that whole knowing what was happening next thing that I was just enjoying the ever living shit out of? Yep, gone. No idea where we’re going to live. Everyone got their hopes up and now everyone’s hopes are down and I just want to know. I can live anywhere but I just want to know. And I want my husband to be happy again like he was this past weekend, because he was so happy and so proud of himself and that was just great to see and to be around. He worked hard and he deserves this and he is a really good person who just feels like hell about what’s happened.

And I have no idea how to end this except to say that I’m ready for this shit show to end.

9 Responses to “Flip Flop Flee”

  • GreenInOC:

    What can NY be “strict” about? If there’s no contract what is their recourse? While it might have put NY in a bad position, even if there were a contract, to have someone work for you that does not want to be there does nobody any good. It will be uncomfortable for them as well as for your husband, That just does not set up either side for success in the long-term.

    Also, why did it put them in a bad position? If there aren’t contracts then their team must know that this is a possibility so they would let the other candidates go while leaving the door partly open with them just in case of a situation like this. If they didn’t handle this properly that’s nobody’s fault but their own.

    If your husband thinks about it and decides on his own that he feels like he would be excited to make it work with zero regrets then he should but otherwise, what the heck is NY thinking?!


    Katie Reply:

    @GreenInOC, That’s exactly what all of my husband’s work colleagues are saying. New York could attempt to find a way to show that he’s legally obligated (they would lose), which would cost us a lot of money or force us to go there. But personally, I can’t understand why they would still want him to go there when he clearly doesn’t want it.


  • Aly:

    Damn. New York is just being ridiculous about this. Fingers crossed that everything works out for you guys.

    (This whole fellowship business didn’t seem nearly as complicated on Grey’s Anatomy)


  • Jen:

    Not trying to be glib here, but in the long run, does a minor blip on his reputation in New York mean very much compared to what the California fellowship will mean for personal and professional happiness? Especially when you consider that it appears as though he has done absolutely everything in his power to be upfront and honest with all of the programs involved.

    Does it suck for the NY fellowship director? Absolutely. They’re probably being strict because he’s a great candidate and they know it. But they’ll move on and will be even better for it in the long run because they’ll have someone who wants to be there.


  • Nikki:

    I agree with Jen. I think that emotions and decisions are magnified in the moment because it’s current, but when it’s all said and done – New York will be just fine.

    Here’s to hoping that things work out quickly. Seems like New York has no legal recourse, and outside of some inconvenience, there’s nothing they can do.


  • Blerg. That is all. So frustrating!


  • Elise:

    New York is an employment-at-will state, so without a signed contract there is no obligation to proceed on either side. http://www.nysegov.com/citguide.cfm?ques_id=505&superCat=36&cat=344&content=relatedFAQs Not a lawyer, but have lived and worked in a neighboring at-will state for more than a decade and have seen this sort of situation play out on both sides with respect to job offers, acceptances and withdrawals.

    Don’t fall for the guilt trip, that’s all it is.


  • What did you guys decide to do? After northeast cold weather, snow and ice I say stay in sunny CA!


  • Anne:

    any update on this?


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I'm Katie, a 30-year-old, wife, mom, former teacher-turned PT, who also had brain surgery in November of 2007. This blog chronicles my daily life, from mundane to crazy, often with far too much detail. Sit down, get comfortable and stay for a while.
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