The job market is red-hot for young doctors, a new report finds.
A survey of medical residents in their final year of training conducted by Merritt Hawkins, a national physician search firm, found that some residents were overwhelmed with job solicitations and more than half were expecting starting pay of $226,000 or more.
Travis Singleton, an executive vice president with Merritt Hawkins, said the demand for new doctors encompasses both primary care doctors and specialists. To his surprise, some institutions are beginning recruitment in the first year of residency. Many are offering $1,000 to $5,000 a month “stipends” to residents who’ll promise a year or two with the organization when they finish training, a perk once reserved for the biggest surgical stars. Young doctors are feeling so sure they’ll get hired that they’re turning the stipends down to preserve their options. Loan forgiveness and signing bonuses are common, especially in rural areas, which have long struggled to attract doctors.
“It’s just a ubiquitous feeding frenzy,” Singleton said. “To say they have job security is the understatement of the year.”
The new graduates strongly preferred to work in at least mid-size cities, with 66 percent seeking communities with 250,000 residents or more. Only 1 percent wanted to work in towns with fewer than 10,000 people.
The U.S. is facing a shortage of 90,000 to 120,000 physicians by 2035 or so, Singleton said. A key factor crippling response to rising demand is that residency slots, a crucial step toward practicing medicine in this country, have been capped since 1997, he said. The United States has about 800,000 licensed doctors, he said, but it’s hard to tell how many see patients full-time.
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Gregory Kane, chair of the department of medicine at Kimmel Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, said the market for new doctors has been strong for several years. “Jobs are plentiful,” he said. “There are few geographic limitations.”
He means that doctors can find work almost anywhere, although couples are likely to have better luck in bigger cities. He said that he had not heard of stipend offers in Philadelphia and that loan forgiveness is “spotty.” Salaries, he said, are often tied to productivity measures based on the complexity of care doctors are providing.
The good job market means Jefferson has to work to keep its grads. “We have to compete with health care systems across the country to retain the best and brightest,” he said.
One caveat about the Merritt Hawkins survey: Only 391 of the 20,000 residents and fellows who received the survey by email actually answered the questions, a response rate of 2 percent. That rate reflects the fact that physicians are “over-surveyed,” Singleton said. Plus, companies like Merritt Hawkins are competing with drug companies that will pay residents $100 to answer their questions. The margin of error on the Merritt survey is 4.9 percent, low enough to support “fairly strong assertions” about the young doctors, the company said.
Findings from the survey include: