Transition from Resident to Attending

How wide a net should doctors cast in post-residency job search?

Brendan Murphy , Senior News Writer

Looking for your first job after residency is generally going to be an equation that includes your personal and professional wants and the opportunities available. 

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How much weight is given to each side of the equation will be highly individualized. When considering the scope of your search, here are a few things to consider.

Brandi Ring, MD, is an ob-gyn who has mentored numerous physicians making the transition from residency to practice and advocates that physicians need to look at the big picture while job searching.

“The things that I always recommend residents do is write down what they want their life to look like five, 10 or 20 years down the road,” said Dr. Ring. “What do they envision themselves doing professionally and what does that life look like for them.”

As you continue the journey to being a young physician, the AMA Transition to Practice series 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.

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In her initial post-residency job search, Dr. Ring desired to return to her home state of Colorado. That narrowed the focus to the point that she was “cold-dropping resumes” to leaders of academic medical centers.

Having a particular area in mind to practice or specific job requirements are factors that can require a bit more time and patience in your search, Dr. Ring said.

“If you narrow your search, you may not be able to do it yourself without a significant time investment,”  said Dr. Ring, who is speaker of the AMA Young Physicians Section. said. “If you are going to limit your search to a single city for instance, you might need a recruiter. Those jobs might not actually be posted. You might need someone with insights into the specific opportunities.”

Leah Grant, president of physician recruiting company AMN Healthcare Physician Solutions (formerly known as Merritt Hawkins), says that   geography tends to be one of the more challenging limitations of a job search.

“Residents coming out of training can be very specific about where they want to practice,” Grant said.  “Often, they are looking for popular vacation destinations or desirable metro areas. Finding a practice in Chicago and be more challenging than finding a practice in Urbana.”

Grant added that in recent years AMN Healthcare job searches in communities of 100,000 people or fewer have increased. So, looking in those settings will generally yield more opportunity.

JAMA Career Center presents physician career opportunities, news and information relevant to the full spectrum of medical practice. 

Physicians commonly change job early in their careers.

Dr. Ring, who left her first post-residency physician job after six years, said she wanted more opportunities to grow professionally. She has also seen situations in which candidates are attracted to jobs by financial incentives such as signing bonuses, but the actual practice fit isn’t a good one. Grant said that for both first-time entrants in the job market and young physicians looking for opportunities, the market is strong.

“It is common for residents to get multiple practice offers during their training, and many are contacted 100 times or more by recruiters,” Grant said. “If you decide to explore something new, you will have many options from which to choose. The broader your parameters, the more opportunities you will have, but even those with specific job requirements should have at least a few opportunities that match what they are looking for.”