Residents Are Flush With Job Offers and Career Regrets

January 13, 2015

One in four final-year residents regret going into medicine despite being hot commodities in the job market, according to a new survey released yesterday by the physician recruitment firm Merritt Hawkins.

It is a sweet-and-sour state of affairs. On the sweet side, 63% of residents report being approached by recruiters 51 times during their training, and 46% have been hit on professionally at least 100 times. Chalk up all the job offers to a persistent shortage of physicians, said Mark Smith, the president of Merritt Hawkins.

"Newly trained physicians are being recruited like blue-chip athletes," Smith said in a press release. "There are simply not enough physicians coming out of training to fill all the available demand."

Specialities getting the most attention from hospitals and group practices include family medicine, internal medicine, psychiatry, hospital medicine, pediatrics, general surgery, and obstetrics/gynecology.

Now for the sour side: "This year's class of residents will be entering practice at a unique time of change and uncertainty caused by health reform and a variety of other factors," according to the Merritt Hawkins survey. They face "a tumultuous professional environment."

Perhaps not surprisingly, 25% of residents surveyed said that if they were to redo their education, they would select another profession. That level of disenchantment resembles that among physicians of all ages, as revealed in another Merritt Hawkins physician survey from 2014. Of 20,000 physicians polled, 28.7% said they would not be a physician if they had their career to do over.

"With declining reimbursement, increasing paperwork, and the uncertainty of health reform, many physicians are under duress today," said Smith. "It is not surprising that many newly trained doctors are concerned about what awaits them."

And many residents are nit ready to handle it, the survey suggests: 39% said they are unprepared for the business side of medicine, and 59% reported having received no formal training on employment issues such as contracts, compensation, coding, reimbursement methods, and the like.

Another source of duress for final-year residents could be "length, expense and intensity of their training," according to the Merritt Hawkins survey. The expense in particular is a lingering problem: 49% of final-year residents said they owe $150,000 or more in student loans, and 38% said getting these loans repaid or forgiven was a major concern.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit in Medicine Is Not Dead Yet

Merritt Hawkins emailed its survey questions to some 24,000 final-year residents in May 2014 and received responses from roughly 1200 of them.

The results provide further proof that solo practice is on the endangered species list. A scant 2% of respondents said solo practice was the work setting they would most prefer. However, another 20% were most inclined to join a physician partnership, suggesting to Merritt Hawkins that the entrepreneurial spirit among physicians has not yet died out.

Most final-year residents, however, want to become an employee of a hospital (36%), a multispecialty group practice (14%), or a single specialty group (11%). Smith said new physicians generally prefer to let someone else deal with the business end of medical practice.

Topping the list of the most important criteria in choosing a job offer was geography, selected by 69% of residents. Lifestyle was second, at 61%, and third was reasonable work schedules (think call coverage) and personal time, at 60%. An adequate financial package came in fourth, at 58%. Roughly three fourths of residents count on earning $176,000 or more in their first year of professional practice.

Very few residents from the class of 2014 want to live in a small town: Only 2% said they would prefer to practice in a city with a population of 10,000 or less.

Eighty-three percent gravitate to cities with 100,000 or more residents, and 24% aim for those with more than 1 million. Merritt Hawkins calls these findings "bad news for rural areas."

More information on the survey results is available on the Merritt Hawkins website.

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