As more residents and fellows get an early job search start, hospitals must adapt

Male doctor in white lab coat
Residents and fellows are starting their job search earlier than ever. (Getty/Saklakova)

Residents and fellows are starting their job searches earlier than ever—well before the beginning of their last year of training, according to a new survey.

To compete in a landscape where physicians are in high demand, healthcare employers should engage with residents and fellows earlier in the hiring process, too, concluded PracticeMatch, a St. Louis-based company that matches healthcare providers with employers. 

A report released earlier this year from the Association of American Medical Colleges shows a projected shortage of between 40,800 and 104,900 doctors by 2030.

Employers are increasingly offering stipends to new hires, according to the company, and that trend is likely driving residents and fellows to start interviewing and commit to a practice sooner rather than later.

The survey of 691 new physicians, completed this fall, found that 36% begin searching for their first practice opportunity two years before the end of their residency. More than half of graduating physicians begin their job search at the start of their final year of training. Only 18% wait until the end of that last year to start looking for their first physician job.

"Over the past several years, we have noticed physicians seem to be starting their job searches progressively earlier," Mike York, chief operations officer of PracticeMatch, said in an announcement. "The most competitive, proactive healthcare employers are catching on to this trend as well, establishing relationships with residents and fellows earlier in their training, and offering monthly stipends for the last year or two of training, further motivating physicians to commit to employment sooner."

That's especially true for the most competitive specialties, such as primary care, he said.

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A survey released in September described the demand for new physicians as being on the verge of a “feeding frenzy” and found that 50% of 935 final-year medical residents said they received 100 or more recruiting offers during their training.

Other results of the PracticeMatch survey found:

  • There’s room for improvement in terms of formal job search guidance in resident and fellow training programs. Nearly half of respondents reported receiving little or no formal job search help during training, and only 7% reported receiving "a lot" of formal job search training. The most common services offered included live job fairs and financial planning or student loan advice.
  • Even with new technology, respondents rely heavily on old-fashioned networking and word-of-mouth referrals in their job search. Nearly three-fourths of respondents used peer referrals or word of mouth as part of their job search strategy. However, online job boards were a very close second, with 60% of respondents using them at some point during their job search, making it clear employers should invest in posting jobs online. Other popular job search resources for residents and fellows include independent recruiters (35%) and medical conferences (27%).