Though she was only $401 shy of becoming the March 29 “Jeopardy!” champion, Tricia Riley, NP, of the MGH Thoracic Aortic Center, still “had a blast” being a contestant on the game show.

Riley, who has worked at the MGH since 1999, has taken the online qualifying test annually for years to try to get on the show. After once passing the test, auditioning in person and then not getting called back, Riley finally auditioned again in October 2015. “You take another written test and do some practice rounds like you are actually on the show answering questions,” says Riley. “Then they might call you within 18 months to be on the show.” One year later, she got the call to tape in California in December 2016.

From her hotel stay – with all other contestants – to sitting in the makeup chair, to walking onto the set, Riley highlights the kindness and professionalism of every staff member. “They just made it so fresh and personal and made everybody feel relaxed and at ease throughout what could be a very nerve-wracking time,” says Riley. “My biggest fear was being a deer in the headlights. But it goes by so fast you don’t even have time to be nervous.”

Riley remembers figuring out the correct timing for when to push the buzzer and her Daily Double question. She correctly answered the final clue – “NASA wished John Glenn this 8-letter word when he made the first U.S. manned orbital flight in 1962 and again upon his passing in 2016” – “Godspeed,” but the rest went by in a blur. Watching her episode with a group of friends and family, Riley didn’t remember most of the questions. “I said, ‘Did I really answer those?’”

“My advice to anyone even considering trying out for the show is to go ahead and throw your hat into the ring,” says Riley. “You never know what might happen, and it is an absolute blast.”

This article was originally published in the 04/7/17 issue of Hotline.