August 13, 2020

What medical residents are paid—and what they really think about their bosses

Daily Briefing

    Residents in allergy and immunology, hematology, plastic surgery, rheumatology, and specialized surgery reported the highest salaries this year, while those in family medicine reported the lowest, according to Medscape's "Residents Salary & Debt Report 2020."

    Advisory Board's take: Why it's so important to get physician compensation right

    For the report, researchers surveyed 1,659 medical residents across more than 30 specialties from April 3 to June 1.

    According to the report, the respondents reported an average annual salary of $63,400 this year, up about 3% from an average of $61,200 last year. About 70% of the respondents reported having at least $50,000 in medical school debt, with almost one quarter reporting having more than $300,000 in medical school debt. Meanwhile, 23% of respondents reported having no medical school debt.

    The highest-paid residents

    According to the report, the residents with the highest salaries reported working in allergy and immunology, hematology, plastic surgery, rheumatology, and specialized surgery, with an average annual salary of $69,500. In comparison, the residents with the lowest salaries reported working in family medicine, with an average annual salary of $58,500.

    Overall, 43% of respondents said they thought their compensation was fair, including 42% of male residents (who reported an average salary of $63,700) and 45% of female residents (who reported an average salary of $63,000)—down from 47% and 49% of male and female respondents in 2019, respectfully. This was the sixth consecutive year that more female residents reported being happy with their compensation when compared with male residents, according to the report.

    Among the 57% of residents who said they were dissatisfied with their compensation, 81% said the compensation doesn't adequately reflect the number of hours they work, and 77% said the compensation isn't comparable to pay received by other medical staff, such as PAs and nurses.

    Views on hospital staff

    Respondents also weighed in on their relationships with attending physicians.

    Eighty-one percent of the respondents said they were very/somewhat satisfied with attending physicians' treatment of residents and 88% said their relationships with attending physicians were very good or good. Most respondents expressed positive views on their relationships with nurses and PAs, as well.

    However, one resident said Covid-19 has caused a lot of attending physicians to stay home "while residents [worked] beyond and above responsibilities." As such, there was "no mentorship and almost no education," the respondent added.

    But overall, 89% of respondents said they thought their degree of supervision by attending physicians was appropriate, while 7% said they thought they received too little supervision and 4% thought they received too much.

    The best (and worst) parts of being a resident

    About 77% of respondents said the most rewarding part of being a resident is the opportunity to gain clinical knowledge and experience. Many respondents also cited performing well in their jobs and the gratitude of and relationships with patients as rewarding parts of their jobs.

    When asked about the biggest challenge faced in residency, 27% of respondents in years one to four of residency and 32% in years five to eight named work-life balance. Respondents also cited a fear of failure and debt, among other things, as challenges faced during residency.

    In addition, Covid-19 posed new challenges for some residents this year, according to the report. About 30% of the respondents said their training left them unprepared to handle Covid-19, while 40% said their training had prepared them and 31% said they were unsure. One respondent even said she thinks the entire U.S. health care system was unprepared to handle Covid-19, according to the report (Martin, "Residents Salary & Debt Report 2020," Medscape, 8/7).

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