Think Being a Physician is a Recession-proof Job? Think Again

The Emergency Medicine Residents’ Association does not have a tally of how many members are without jobs. But a survey from the American College of Emergency Physicians found that 20 percent of emergency medicine group practices [laid off doctors] this year, almost one-third furloughed them and more than half cut hours or wages.

“What we’re watching now is frightening for the residents,” said [Mark Rosenberg,] the American College of Emergency Physicians’ president. Sontag, who attended the UT Health San Antonio residency program, said that only one of 12 final-year residents there has secured a job. In a typical year, all of them would have contracts by now.

Interesting. I’ve often thought the the practice of medicine doesn’t have a great future. One of my kids wants to become a surgeon and I think the risk of spending all that money on education, not working for pay and then getting paid well ( but not amazingly) is risky at best. At some point, it’s likely the US will shift to a government based system and wages will be reduced.

Heard about this from a couple of my friends’ kids. One is currently on a fellowship after completing her ER residency and was hoping to move back east to be close to family. Jobs are scarce and I am not sure she’ll be able to do that. Another is just completing her residency in OBGYN and is interviewing at her current hospital and some others near by. She said that jobs are hard to come by.

It’s a perfect storm for the medical field. Procedures are what drives income (physician income, hospital income, and HMO). But patients are putting off not just the clearly discretionary procedures like cosmetic surgery but also the non-discretionary stuff- colonoscopies, knee replacements, etc. People figure “if I’ve waited this long, another couple of months won’t kill me”.

So patients are avoiding primary care (I missed my annual physical, will wait until I get vaccinated; kids are not getting their immunizations on schedule), AND delaying anything procedure- based unless they are brought to an ER on a stretcher.

How are hospitals supposed to respond? They are delaying making hiring decisions, that’s how. I feel for the doctors coming off their residencies (which are partially funded by the federal government so less sensitive to ups and downs). Who could have predicted this???

They have also found that a number of practices have been replacing EM doctors with mid-level providers as they cost considerably less. My colleagues and I see this play out with all sorts of misdiagnoses and return visits to other EDs and I think time will not be kind to this move. When you get can get an online degree in a fraction of the hours it takes to go to medical school and do a full EM residency it must seem appealing. The education is shockingly lacking and patients often think they are seeing doctors when they aren’t (or they are seeing someone with an online doctorate in nursing with a fraction of the clinical hours of an ED physician.)

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The pandemic may be disruptive, but not permanently. Unless the patients don’t survive the pandemic, there will be a pent-up demand, at least for the specialists.

Posting on this so I can see when other responses are added. I guess I’m glad that my guy will just be starting residency, but I definitely feel for those who are at the end. Hopefully vaccines will get us back on track, then I agree that there will likely be pent up demand, though not for ED as much as specialties.

Agree. And they are replacing doctors in the US (such as radiologists) with radiologists in lower cost areas such as India via telemedicine. The US doctor then approves the onsite work. Happened to the husband of a friend of mine. Went from 9 radiologists at a major medical center to 2. I’d doubt the patients got a discount.

When you don’t let people out of their houses there are fewer emergencies.

D is reporting that fewer than half of the graduating EM class at her alma mater (a HYS residency program) have job offers.

Younger D reports that in her med school graduating class–many of whom are completing their 3 year residencies this spring–nearly all have elected to enter fellowships to avoid the poor job market. Only 1 classmate among her friends has a job–a Stanford trained pediatrician–and that job is at a medicaid clinic in a medically underserved rural area.