Not Your Father’s Job Market
In December 2019, a prominent physician recruiting firm reported on final-year residents’ employment opportunities. The survey administered showed that 66% of residents in their last year of training received 51 or more potential job offers; 45% received 100 or more potential job offers. The graduating residents, especially those trained for in-demand specialties, had considerable negotiating power with prospective employers. Then came COVID-19. In just two months, job seeking became a seller’s market. Those offering practice opportunities to residents seeking jobs now have considerable leverage. The number of candidates per job opening is the highest ever recorded.
The pandemic has significantly altered resident training and now is altering the residents’ job-seeking activities. Many of the residents who anticipated completing their training by July 2020 already had contracts for practice positions. Many residents, however, were disheartened, and even frightened, by changes made to the positions for which they were hired. Some positions were eliminated. These changes or eliminations implemented the old “last hired, first let go” rule. The fallout affects residents the most.
The chief resident of emergency medicine at a university health center in Houston had accepted a position with a local health system. He did not have a finalized contract, however. At the time of this writing he is still waiting. Many of his friends, who also had contracts, were changed from full-time to part-time, and/or had their starting dates delayed. Many of the graduating residents were moving across the state or country, not knowing if they could remain financially stable. Uncertainty was piling on, layer on top of layer, threatening their own emotional and mental wellbeing.
A husband and wife duo, both physicians, began their job search earlier, about 18 months in advance of when they would be starting. The initial steps in the job search process are the same, but changes had to be made for interviews. There has been a shift to online video interviews. After the video interview, some of the hiring organizations may want to sponsor an on-site visit.
It is best for the applicant to see the facility in which they are going to work. Is the workspace physician-friendly and conditions conducive to optimal patient care? Some things can be picked up only by visiting, such as an organization’s culture. Look for interactions among the staff. Do they welcome visitors?
Waiting could be risky
For candidates seeking opportunities in common specialties, waiting for an in-person visit may be risky. If an appealing offer is made in-hand, even without an in-person visit, residents and fellows are strongly encouraged to consider it.
Be open-minded about accepting an offer early in the process if it meets most of your needs. Comparison shopping, with multiple in-person interviews over several months, is no longer the norm. You may have to make a decision without meeting the people you will work with or seeing the location. There are physicians who have lost their jobs and are now accepting virtual offers.
The American Medical Association has established a collection of resources to assist residents and medical students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Beyond this, there are many places residents and young physicians can find aid in their job search. Here on our blog on HospitalRecruiting.com, we publish articles from medical professionals weekly that cover a wide variety of topics, from the ongoing pandemic to career advice and more. If you’re currently seeking a job, you may also visit our site to browse thousands of available positions all across the U.S.