Survey shows residents have ample job options

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Say what you will about medical residency -- and much of what I've heard can't be written without the generous use of expletives -- it usually does lead to gainful employment. Unlike some graduates completing their education or training (English majors come to mind), newly minted doctors have little problem finding a job. A greater challenge for many physicians, and for radiologists, in particular, is choosing the right job from among various offers.

This point is underscored by a new survey of final-year medical residents conducted by my firm. Of some 300 final-year residents surveyed, including more than 20 radiologists, 90% received at least 10 job solicitations from physician recruiters during the course of their training. Eighty percent received two dozen or more job solicitations from recruiters during their training, while 40% received more than 50 job solicitations.

Despite being wooed by recruiters, 41% of residents surveyed indicated that the ability to find a practice was "most concerning" to them. In my experience with radiologists, this concern generally is not about finding a practice per se. It has more to do with anxiety over whether, in evaluating various career opportunities, they might ultimately choose the wrong one.

This anxiety can be compounded by the fact that many physicians do not receive formal training in job evaluation skills during their residencies. When asked if they had received any formal instruction in employment-related issues such as contracts, compensation arrangements, interviewing techniques, or reimbursement methods, 44% of final-year medical residents surveyed said no. However, 66% of those surveyed said they were at least somewhat prepared to handle the business side of medicine, 16% said they were very prepared, and 18% said they were unprepared.

A key issue for radiology residents today is whether to embark upon a career as a hospital employee or join a private practice radiology group. Most residents we work with assume that private practice is the more favorable model, but this premise is becoming increasingly debatable.

Given the state of physician reimbursement and the effects of the Deficit Reduction Act (DRA) of 2005, we are seeing a growing number of radiology practice partners seeking hospital employment. Residents should not assume private practice is still the most financially sound option. They also should consider whether the members of any group they join have plans to become hospital employees.

The other key to the job market for radiology residents is specialization. While opportunities exist for general radiologists, demand is currently centered on those with specialty training in body imaging, musculoskeletal, and other specialty areas. This is particularly true in larger communities where many radiology groups have a sufficient number of general radiologists in place but are trying to expand by developing specialty capability.

Even though most residents surveyed indicated they have plenty of job options, not all of them are happy with their choice of a career. About one in five (18%) of those surveyed said that if they had their education to do over again, they would pick a field other than medicine. It is unfortunate that some residents apparently are disillusioned with medicine before they have even entered into their first professional practice. However, given the continual battles over reimbursement, malpractice, clinical autonomy, and other issues physicians struggle with, it is not necessarily surprising.

By Mark Smith contributing writer
September 26, 2008

Mark Smith is president of Merritt, Hawkins & Associates, a national physician search and consulting firm and a division of AMN Healthcare. He can be reached at [email protected].

Related Reading

Survey: Radiologists 50 and older eager for work changes, November 19, 2007

Half of older physicians plan to cut back on clinical practice, October 31, 2007

Radiologists still high on recruiters' wish lists, August 14, 2007

RT wages growing more slowly, ASRT finds, July 26, 2007

Mammography pays well despite reputation, SalaryScan survey says, May 10, 2007

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