Transition from Resident to Attending

How final-year resident physicians can narrow down job options

Timothy M. Smith , Contributing News Writer

AMA News Wire

How final-year resident physicians can narrow down job options

May 28, 2024

Residents and fellows entering their final year in training this summer can take heart in the fact that they will likely find lots of health care organizations competing for their services as they look for their first jobs in practice. For most senior residents and fellows, the problem isn’t getting an offer, but choosing the right one.

The most recent survey (registration required) by AMN Healthcare’s Physician Solutions division—formerly known as Merritt Hawkins—found that 56% of final-year medical residents got 100 or more job solicitations during their training.

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“That's the highest number receiving 100 or more job solicitation since we began the survey, in 1991,” said Leah Grant, president of the AMN Healthcare Physician Solutions division, a major health care recruiter. “Employers feel they don't have to worry about succession planning with younger hires because they are able to come into a health system or a private practice and grow with it. So everyone wants them.”

Here’s the rub: Few, if any, job seekers are in a position to adequately vet so many offers. The survey, conducted in 2023 and set to be repeated in 2025, found that 61% of the 241 final-year residents had received no formal instruction on employment issues, such as contracts, compensation arrangements, interviewing techniques and payment methods—the highest number since AMN Healthcare’s 2014 survey.

Grant offered two top-level tips for finding the right opportunity.

“Residents typically take the job that seems the most appealing in the moment, not necessarily what's best for them long term,” Grant said, adding that residents will get offers from a range of organizations such as hospitals, health systems, physician private practices, urgent care centers and retail clinics. Even Amazon is getting into the health care market.

“One critical step in the process is understanding what you want,” she said. “Iron out what your non-negotiables are. For example, what benefits do you need? Are you wanting student loan repayment? How important is work-life balance? Do you have to be close to family? What about compensation? Have all that clear on the front end.”

In addition, job seekers should consider how their needs might change.

“Where do you want to be in five or 10 years?” Grant said.

For final-year residents and fellows transitioning to practice, the AMA has guidance and resources on deciding where to practice, negotiating an employment contract, managing work-life balance and other essential tips about starting in practice. Learn more.

Having answers to all those questions is essential, but knowing how to then scrutinize individual practice opportunities is equally important.

Another AMN Healthcare publication, How to Assess a Medical Practice Opportunity, provides an eight-step process for evaluating job offers. No. 1 on the list: “Accept the process for what it is.”

For starters, “the process will be rigorous and time consuming,” the publication notes. “Be prepared to spend hours on the phone with recruiters or other representatives of the practice before an on-site interview is scheduled.”

Other steps include understanding the vision of the group, hospital or health system; determining if there is a defined need for your medical specialty in the service area; and ensuring that there are adequate resources available for you to establish a practice.

“It's not just the number of offers, it's that you haven't been trained in determining what's a good practice and what isn’t—in other words, whether it agrees with your priorities and sensibilities,” Grant said. “In addition, you’re going into your last year of residency and time is at a premium. If you just take one of these 100 offers because it happens to agree with a few of your top priorities, you really haven't done your due diligence. You have to accept this.”

Learn more with the AMA STEPS Forward® toolkit, “What to Look for in Your First or Next Practice.

Evaluate the Practice Environment to Match Your Priorities.” It is enduring material and designated by the AMA for a maximum of 0.5 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™️. 

Learn more about AMA CME accreditation.