Only 40% of Residents Said Training Prepped Them for COVID-19

Marcia Frellick

August 10, 2020

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

Most residents who were asked whether their training prepared them for COVID-19 in a Medscape survey said it had not or they weren't sure.

Whereas 40% said they felt prepared, 30% said they did not feel prepared and 31% answered they were unsure. (Numbers were rounded, so some answers pushed above 100%.)

One Quarter Have $300,000 or More in Student Debt

The Medscape Residents Salary & Debt Report 2020, with data collected April 3 to June 1, found that nearly one in four residents (24%) had medical school debt of more than $300,000. Half (49%) had more than $200,000.

The data include answers from 1659 US medical residents.

For the sixth straight year, female residents were more satisfied with their pay than their male colleagues. This year the satisfaction gap was 45% female compared with 42% male. That imbalance came despite making nearly the same pay overall ($63,700 for men and $63,000 for women).

Among practicing physicians, the pay gap is much wider: men make 25% more in primary care and 31% more in specialties.

More than a third of residents (34%) said they felt residents should make 26% to 50% more than they do. Ten percent thought they should earn 76% to 100% more.

For those not satisfied with pay, the top reasons were feeling the pay was too low for the hours worked (81%) or too low compared with other medical staff, such as physician assistants (PAs) or nurses (77% chose that answer).

As for hours worked, 31% of residents reported they spend more than 60 hours/week seeing patients.

The top-paying specialties, averaging $69,500, were allergy and immunology; hematology; plastic surgery; aesthetic medicine; rheumatology; and specialized surgery. The lowest paid were family medicine residents at $58,500.

In primary care, overall, most residents said they planned to specialize. Only 47% planned to continue to work in primary care. Male residents were much more likely to say they will subspecialize than their female colleagues (52% vs 35%).

More than 90% of residents say future pay has influenced their choice of specialty, though more men than women felt that way (93% vs 86%).

Good Relationships With Others

Overall, residents reported good relationships with attending physicians and nurses.

Most (88%) said they had good or very good relationships with attending physicians, 10% said the relationships were fair, and 2% said they were poor.

Additionally, 89% of residents said the amount of supervision was appropriate, 4% said there was too much, and 7% said there was too little.

Relationships with nurses/PAs were slightly less positive overall: 82% reported good or very good relationships with nurses/PAs, 15% said those relationships were fair, and 3% said they were poor.

One respondent said: "Our relationships could be better, but I think everyone is just overwhelmed with COVID-19, so emotions are heightened."

Another said: "It takes time to earn the respect from nurses."

Seventy-seven percent said they were satisfied with their learning experience overall, 12% were neutral on the question, and 11% said they were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied.

Work-Life Balance Is the Top Concern

Work-life balance continues to be the top concern for residents. More than one quarter (27%) in residency years 1 through 4 listed that as the top concern, and even more (32%) of those in years 5 through 8 agreed.

That was followed by demands on time and fear of failure or making a serious mistake.

The survey indicates that benefit packages for residents have stayed much the same over the past 2 years with health insurance and paid time off for sick leave, vacation, and personal time most commonly reported at 89% and 87%, respectively.

Much less common were benefits including commuter assistance (parking, public transportation) at 24%, housing allowance (8%), and childcare (4%).

The vast majority of residents reported doing scut work (unskilled tasks): more than half (54%) reported doing 1 to 10 hours/week and 22% did 11 to 20 hours/week. Regardless of the number of hours, however, 62% said the time spent performing these tasks was appropriate.

Marcia Frellick is a freelance journalist based in Chicago. She has previously written for the Chicago Tribune, Science News, and and was an editor at the Chicago Sun-Times, the Cincinnati Enquirer, and the St Cloud (Minnesota) Times. Follow her on Twitter at @mfrellick

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