Most Residents Say They Deserve Big Raise, Survey Shows

July 27, 2017

Sixty-five percent of the nation's medical residents say they deserve raises of more than 25% in light of the work they do, according to results of the 2017 Medscape Residents Salary & Debt Report .

For almost one in five residents, a pay hike of 76% or more sounds about right. Fewer than half of residents believe they're fairly compensated.

These findings come from an online Medscape survey conducted in April and May of roughly 1500 residents across 25 specialties.

Resident salaries have been creeping up instead of leaping up, the new report showed. The average resident salary in 2017 is $57,200, 1.2% more than in 2016. The increase trailed the Consumer Price Index for urban consumers in April, which was 2.2% for the previous 12 months before seasonal adjustments.

The slight pay raise for residents in 2017 manages to dwarf the one in 2016, which was only 0.18%, according to the Medscape survey.

Just 2 years ago, 60% of male residents and 65% of female residents told Medscape that they felt fairly compensated. Today, that level of contentment has fallen below 50% — 46% for men and 49% for women.

Resident salaries in 2017 vary considerably by specialty. Trainees in hematology lead the pack, at $69,000, while family medicine residents bring up the rear, at $54,000.

The gender gap in resident pay is negligible. Men averaged $57,400 or 1.2% more than women, who received $56,700.

More Residents Feel Shortchanged on Time With Patients

Dissatisfaction with pay is just one example of how personal finances increasingly preoccupy residents. In 2017, 45% said their medical school debt exceeded $200,000. Two years ago, only 37% of residents reported owing that much.

Not surprisingly, as medical school debt rises, more and more trainees pick their given specialty in large measure on the basis of how much they expect to earn in the future. In 2017, 38% of residents said potential earnings were extremely or very influential in their choice of specialty, up from 36% in 2016 and 32% in 2015.

Financial concerns aside, most residents appear to be in fine spirits about their experience in boot-camp medicine:

  • Seventy-nine percent say their training hours are sufficient.

  • Eighty-nine percent believe they're receiving the appropriate amount of supervision.

  • Seventy-eight percent are very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their learning experience.

  • Eighty-one percent are satisfied with how attending physicians treat them.

  • Eighty-four percent call their relationships with nurses and physician assistants good or very good.

One fly in the ointment for many residents is a perceived shortage of time with patients. Seventeen percent said they rarely if ever have sufficient face time with patients, up from 6% in 2016. However, the percentage of residents who feel that they always or usually have sufficient time with patients rose from 39% to 43% in that period.

When asked what they find most rewarding about their jobs, most residents point to Hippocratic rather than financial values. Number one is "the clinical knowledge and experience that I'm getting," checked off by 76%. A sense of clinical competency tied relationships with patients — and their expressions of gratitude — for second place, at 67%. Thirty-five percent of residents said "the potential for making good money" is one of the most rewarding aspects of their training program, putting it last on the list.

The complete results of the 2017 Medscape Residents Salary & Debt Report are available here.

Follow Robert Lowes on Twitter @LowesRobert

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