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Best and worst of times for new docs

October 10, 2011

This is a story fit for Charles Dickens.

American medical residents are getting more job offers than before, yet greater numbers of them say if they had it to do over again, they would not go to medical school.

Those are the findings from the 2011 survey of final-year medical residents by Merritt Hawkins, a Texas-based physician recruitment firm. Merritt Hawkins conducts the survey every two or three years.

The survey found that 78 percent of medical residents have been contacted more than 50 times about job opportunities at hospitals or physician groups. In 2008, only 40 percent of residents had been contacted that often, and in 2006, only 52 percent had.

“Medical residents are the subject of intense recruiting activity,” concluded Merritt Hawkins’ staff in their summary of the survey results.

But in spite of the good job prospects, 29 percent of residents say they would avoid medicine if they had a second chance. In 2008, only 18 percent of residents said the same and in 2006, only 8 percent did.

“The fact that nearly one in three newly trained physicians expressed ‘buyer’s remorse’ over their choice of career is in part a reflection of the turbulent state of the medical profession,” wrote Merritt Hawkins’ staff members.

That turbulence stems from the changing market conditions prompted by the increasing cost of health care, the changes unleashed by the 2010 health reform law, as well as the shortage of doctors.

It clearly has many medical residents looking for jobs that let them focus on medicine and their personal lives, and leave the challenges of business to others. For those same reasons, all the major central Indiana hospitals have been able to attract  more physicians—young and old—as employees.

The most desirable practice setting for residents would be working for a hospital, with 32 percent citing that option. Another 28 percent said they’d like to join a physician group as a partner. Only 1 percent said they’d like to start a solo practice.

The most concerning realities residents listed in the survey were “availability of free time,” “dealing with payers” and “earning a good income.”

The financial challenges facing medical students has pushed increasing numbers of them to pursue specialty practices and to congregate in larger metro areas. Fewer than 7 percent of residents in the survey said they wanted to practice in communities with fewer than 50,000 people.

To read profiles of students at the Indiana University School of Medicine, go here.

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