A majority of final-year medical residents reported receiving more than 100 job solicitations from recruiters, a survey showed.
In the survey conducted by AMN Healthcare, 56% of residents reported a massive influx of letters, emails, phone calls, and other communications, marking the highest figure since the start of the biennial survey in 1991.
However, despite an extremely favorable job market, 30% of residents said that, if they had to do it over, they would pick a different field than medicine.
Burnout likely played a role here, AMN noted in a report on the survey’s findings, with 81% of residents reporting that they sometimes, often, or always experienced feelings of burnout during their training.
“Even though work hours are now limited to 80 hours a week … it’s still exhausting,” Leah Grant, MBA, president of AMN Healthcare Physician Solutions, told MedPage Today. Some residents in the current pool were on the front lines during the COVID pandemic, she added, and others are observing burnout among later-stage physicians — “almost as a mirror” of their future.
Burnout Contributing to the Current Market
The strong demand for physicians is being driven by a number of factors, including population growth, aging, and ill health, according to the AMN report. “As demand for physicians rises, the supply of physicians is being inhibited by an insufficient number of residency positions, physician aging, and physician burnout.”
Grant pointed out that “more physicians are leaving the workforce than entering. It’s almost like water leaving a bathtub faster than it’s coming in.”
Accordingly, hospitals and medical groups, as well as newer entrants to the physician employment market like retail clinics and insurance companies, are left to compete for the same pool of graduating residents.
“Indeed, the challenge for most graduating residents today is not finding a practice but choosing the right opportunity from a variety of offers,” the report noted.
When asked to indicate what is important to them as they consider practice opportunities, 82% of residents surveyed rated “lifestyle” as very important, and 80% rated “adequate personal time” as very important. Additionally, 78% of residents rated a “good financial package” as very important, and 76% rated “geographic location” as very important.
“While location and income remain key considerations, many residents consider a balanced lifestyle with adequate personal time that is conducive to their physical and mental well-being to be of paramount importance when selecting a first practice,” the report stated.
For residents, “it’s all about flexibility these days,” Grant noted. “They want a practice that’s tailored to their needs,” including considerations related to the specialty of their choice, as well as the ability to take time off and to make their own clinical decisions.
Potential employers want to make sure that, even though residents may be receiving more than 100 contacts, they “stand out as ‘I have to call them back’ because they’re offering x,y,z,” she added.
Compensation Equality, Preferred Practice Settings
Despite a favorable market, additional findings from AMN’s survey showed that female residents reported expectations of earning less than their male counterparts in their first practice. Specifically, 75% of male residents said they expected to earn $276,000 or more in their first practice, compared with only 49% of female residents. Furthermore, 53% of men said they expected to make over $326,000 in their first practice, versus just 32% of women.
“This may be in part because there are fewer female physicians than male physicians in high-paying surgical and other specialties,” the report noted. “However, the survey indicates that female residents expect to earn less than male residents even when grouped by specialty.”
As for practice settings, just 6% of residents surveyed indicated a solo practice would be among their top two choices, reflective of an ongoing trend toward employment and away from private practice. A slightly higher 20% of residents said partnering with another physician would be among their top two choices.
In contrast, 68% of residents indicated employment by a hospital would be among their top two choices for a practice setting, while 42% said employment by a single-specialty group would be among their top two choices and 32% said employment by a multispecialty group would be among their top two choices.
Not only does hospital employment offer residents a “safe harbor from many of the burdens of independent practice ownership, including financial risk and high levels of electronic health records (EHR) expertise and expense,” it also provides “strength in numbers, management savvy and the service integration required to compete in emerging value-based reimbursement models,” according to the report. It also offers a more set schedule, including regular vacations and extensive call coverage.
Further findings of the survey indicated that rural communities continue to face “daunting recruiting challenges” when it comes to physicians, AMN noted. Just 4% of residents reported they would prefer to practice in a community of 25,000 people or fewer, up slightly from 3% in 2021.
“The hesitancy that residents express about practicing in small communities often is related to concerns about being on a ‘clinical island’ without specialty support, information technology, and other resources,” the report stated. “Residents also have concerns around the lack of coverage in rural areas and the challenge of maintaining a reasonable work/life balance. Lack of employment for the physician’s spouse in rural areas is an additional concern.”