Surviving a post-med school residency …

We’ve been spending a lot of time at Georgetown Hospital recently.

In the process, we’ve developed a deep respect for some of the key cogs in the system: nurses, nurse practitioners and doctor-residents.

In casual conversation, our surgeon mentioned how she had managed to “survive her surgical residency”.

That got me wondering, about the life of a resident.



Here’s what I found …


According to Medscape – a health care consultancy, an typical resident is carrying almost $170,000 in med school loans and earns about $55,000 annually for 8 years … for 4 years of “basic” residency and 4 additional years of residency in a specialty.



To put that in perspective, a typical MBA leaves school with about half the residents’ student debt and earns about twice as much … starting their first year out of school.


And, the residents’ hours are grueling.

Early on, residents work well over 60 hours per week … eventually the hours taper off a bit to a mere 50 per week … except for the 1/3 of residents who still are putting in over 60.


Think about that for a moments.

After 4 years of college and 4 years of med school, the residents are toiling for about $20 per hour … about 1/3 the going rate for a plumber.

Sure, the residents have the prospects of eventually earning full doctor’s pay … but, according to Medscape, that only averages about $225,000 these.

That’s nice pay, but not exactly hitting PowerBall either.

So why are so many folks determined to reign in heathcare costs by squeezing doctor reimbursements?

Doesn’t make sense to me …



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2 Responses to “Surviving a post-med school residency …”

  1. Elaine hammers Says:

    You really nailed this issue. Why would a young person want to go into the medical field? They come out so burdened with debt – you mentioned the average med school loans but they usually also have college loans on top of that. The reality in today’s world is your average MBA student has a greater earnings potential in the financial world while working less and more regular hours. Plus your MBA student didn’t have the brutally long hours and years of training and won’t have the stress of making life and death decisions, the government and insurance regulations hampering the medical care they may think is best for their patient every day for the next 30 years and the ever present threat of malpractice hanging over every decision they make. Fortunately for us there are still many young people dedicated to helping and healing but most studies I see predict a physician shortage in the near future as our population ages and more physicians retire than are trained.

    And by the way, you referred to squeezing physician reimbursements – every Medicare payment made to a physician still has the 2% sequester reduction placed on the already low payment and there is no plan to eliminate that. I am not aware of any government agency still subject to the sequester.

  2. Robert Plant Says:

    Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run there’s still time to change between…specialist and generalist. A little medical Stairway.

    In other words, those people take on that level of debt in hopes of becoming a specialist where the base is [I imagine] in the 225K range. Others will become generalists where the average lifelong will be that $225K.

    So why do they do it? For the chance to become a specialist. Some start out wanting to be a generalist and perhaps most of those choose a State med school, or roads that at least alleviate their burden. Considering GTown’s prestige and price, i imagine 9/10 people going to GTown Med have aspirations of specializing….regardless of what their personal statement says.

    As for an aging population and need for more generalists – I agree. Thats why were generally seeing an increase [dare I say ‘boom’] in the number of medical schools popping up, and medical schools with a focus in general care. For example, Florida State Med opened their doors a few years ago. [MD program]. Its focus is to provide general physicians. Furthermore, there is the notion that more DO schools are popping up.

    However, I still agree with your questioning whether it’s a good idea to squeeze Doc reimbursements. While a specialist’s pay can be up there, there are certainly specialists who are shutting doors since its no longer a viable and profitable venture.

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