NZ Gastroenterology National Match Scheme held on 6-7 August 2020

By Dr David Rowbotham | Posted: Thursday October 15, 2020

Report from Dr David Rowbotham, Chair, National Match Scheme

The NZ National Match for advanced training in Gastroenterology is now in its eighth year, but 2020’s delayed version of the event was the first to be held in the new world of changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Hence, for the first time, the Match Days were held as a hybrid meeting with a few interviewers present in the physical room at Auckland City Hospital whilst the majority of the interviewers joined via Zoom.

New applicants being interviewed for a place on the NZ national advanced training scheme in Gastroenterology were invited to attend in person on day 1. On day 2 the progress meetings for returning Gastroenterology advanced trainees, however, were almost exclusively conducted virtually with the advanced trainees also connecting by Zoom. If we achieved nothing else, certainly we have reduced the 2020 NZ Gastroenterology National Match’s carbon footprint!

As you will know the purpose of the NZ Gastroenterology National Match Day is to interview and select new applicants onto the national advanced training scheme in Gastroenterology in NZ, as well as “matching” returning incumbent advanced trainees to specific training positions around the country for the coming year. It is of note that Gastroenterology stands almost alone amongst medical specialities in NZ in having a national rotation. To add insult to injury and magnify the post-COVID-19 difficulties we learned at a very late stage that the junior doctor rotations in NZ were being changed “to align with Australia” and that, instead of the June 2020 to December 2020 rotation that all of our Gastroenterology advanced trainees had planned for we were now being told that the rotation would actually run from July 2020 (delayed due to COVID-19) through to February 2021. This decision seemed to have been taken without due consultation on the basis that RMOs could easily delay their moves between posts. But the Gastroenterology national rotations means that our advanced trainees had expected to move in December 2020 and many had planned specifically for this date with such things as childcare arrangements, rental leases as well as other logistics. Hence, along with the support of the Executive Committee of the NZ Society of Gastroenterology we plan to keep the December 2020 move date and then run the next rotation through to August 2021 which will allow our advanced trainees the necessary time to make any logistical and life arrangements that are necessary to align with the new rotation dates. All of the Gastroenterology Units and their respective hospitals/DHBs will still be covered by advanced trainees in Gastroenterology, so it should not matter a jot to them which face turns up as long as the job is done and the service is provided.

The NZ Gastroenterology National Match Day is attended by the Clinical Heads of each Training Unit around the country (or a nominated representative), as well as by the Chair of the RACP Advanced Training Sub-Committee in Gastroenterology (or deputy Chair). Changes in the NZ Gastroenterology landscape meant that Hawkes Bay is no longer accredited as a training unit and so did not partake in the Match proceedings but, for the first time, it was great that we could welcome Taranaki DHB as the newest accredited training unit. The fact that Tom Boswell attended the 2019 Match on behalf of Hawkes Bay but this year attended on behalf of Taranaki only added to the uniqueness of this year’s event!

The NZ Gastroenterology National Match Day process itself, with the oversight of the RACP Advanced Training Sub-Committee in Gastroenterology, recommends candidates to training positions with particular DHBs (as well as some Fellowships, both Clinical/Endoscopy and Research). The Match cannot make a formal job offer, however, as it remains up to the discretion of individual DHBs to formally offer the positions and actually employ the advanced trainees. Having said that, we still haven’t had a recommended candidate turned down yet!

I speak on behalf of all of us present at the 2020 Match when I say that we were very impressed with the quality of the applicants this year, but also the depth of that quality. It is hard to interview a worthy potential advanced trainee but not have enough places on the NZ Gastroenterology advanced training scheme to offer them a place.

As always, nothing of this size and complexity happens without a lot of hard work behind the scenes so I want to offer thanks to a number of people who help me make it happen at all, and happen smoothly. A special huge thank you to Anna Pears, Executive Officer of the NZSG for her hard work in advertising the match process throughout the College trainee membership and coordinating the process of applications. Thank you to the Consultant Gastroenterologists who performed the additional work of assessing and scoring the CVs of all new applicants allowing for creation of the shortlist of those invited for interview. Thank you to all of the training unit representatives who gave up their time for the Match process and participated enthusiastically on the Match Days and embraced the new format this year. There were some challenges in hosting a hybrid meeting, but I think the event actually went off really very smoothly and we can build on this experience to make recommendations for adjustments or modifications for the NZ Gastroenterology National Match Days 2021.

Any comments or feedback about the entire NZ Gastroenterology National Match process can be made to me.