Next generation of doctors looking for work-life balance in first job

Physician workforce
There's something more important than salary to today's residents. (Wavebreakmedia)

More than salary, residents say they are looking for work-life balance when they choose their first job as a doctor.

Two-thirds of all medical residents (75%) ranked a good work schedule and call hours as the most factor when looking for a job—more than starting salary and compensation (66%) and potential for career advancement (29%), according to a Medscape survey that looked at resident happiness.

The survey of more than 1,900 residents across 29 specialties, found 49% said a supportive organizational or practice environment was most important.

Residents’ priority for work-life balance and a positive working environment comes at the same time physician burnout has reached epidemic levels. Despite physician dissatisfaction, there is optimism about the future for most of those surveyed, as 87% said are still looking forward to working as a doctor.

Residents are looking for a change of pace as they say the number one challenge they have faced in residency is finding work-life balance. Number two on the list is dealing with the time pressures and demands on their time.

RELATED: Medical residents like limited shifts, but program directors prefer more flexibility

Residents want to have a life beyond their careers after putting their social lives on hold. Sixty-nine percent say personal relationships have failed because of their demanding work schedules. Some 43% of residents said they are depressed, 10% all or most of the time, and 10% say they have had thoughts of suicide. Some 68% say there is a strong stigma against physicians seeking help for mental health issues.

As to what would help avoid burnout at work, 64% of residents said a manageable work schedule and call hours would do the trick. Money worries are also a problem for residents. Forty-one percent said having sufficient compensation to avoid stress, such as paying off medical school debt and the ability to buy a home, would also help avoid burnout, and another 40% said reasonable patient loads would help.

To unsaddle its students from crushing medical debt and encourage more of them to pursue less lucrative specialties such as primary care, the NYU School of Medicine announced last week that it will cover the tuition for all its medical school students regardless of their financial need—a first among the country’s major medical schools.