Physician Residents and Fellows: Medical Practice After Pandemic

Physician Resident

July brought with it many changes for most residents and fellows finishing their last year of training.

Notably, it brought an awareness of the end of the residency or fellowship program and the beginning of a career. While many residents and fellows view this change with eagerness, most have other emotions to add to the mix. Anxiety and fear are two.

The year twenty-twenty has been a doozie worldwide. Many high school students didn’t get to experience the full effect of their last year in school. College students and graduate students did not get a much-deserved graduation ceremony.

July twenty-twenty senior residents and fellows finished training with great uncertainty. Some had job offers rescinded based on reduced patient volume, leaving them with no choice but to pursue locum tenens. Others had to accept a job offer that is geographically less desirable. At the same time, many took lower compensation than they would have just one year prior.

How does this changed world affect future career choices? While only time will tell, we can confidently bet on one thing. The pandemic has propelled the world to make changes in how things get done. Business meetings get conducted via video conferences versus face-to-face. Interviews now take place in front of a camera. Patients are doing self-examinations with a physician’s guidance via video.

These changes cause a final year resident or fellow coming out of training to adjust expectations of how to interview, and perhaps even practice medicine.

Video conferencing is a positive change for many. It’s more time-efficient to do than first face-to-face interview via video versus spending a day, possibly two days to travel and meet in person, only to accomplish what can be while sitting in your office in front of a camera.

Some physicians do a few procedures. Others do many. The physician that relies on vital signs and labs to diagnose and treat patients will continue to benefit by using telemedicine. Telemedicine will add more work/life balance to many practicing physicians.

A physician does not need to choose between telemedicine and office-based visits. Instead, days in the office will balance with days out of the office and remotely.

Beyond telemedicine, hospital-based specialties have endured tremendous changes in patient volume. This change has affected job opportunities available to those practicing physicians.

At one point, emergency medicine volume was down by over forty percent. Patients with life-threatening symptoms will return to the emergency department.

Accidents and acute illnesses will not keep patients out of the emergency department. But, what about the colds and flus, the earaches, and mostly non-threatening illness? Will these patients seek alternative means of care after hours? It is feasible that these patients will turn to telemedicine. How does this affect the business of emergency medicine?

Emergency medicine residents may need to consider changes in past volumes of emergency departments will lead to lower offers of compensation. In some ways, declining emergency department volumes may benefit new residents by creating more movement in the emergency medicine job market. This movement may develop as patient volume decreases, so does the revenue.

When fewer dollars are coming into the department, a corresponding cut in pay may affect morale. Low job satisfaction will lead to turn-over.

Procedure based specialist practices were crippled when the US Government shut down elective medical procedures. Many people delayed elective surgeries and procedures. Some patients learned to live with orthopedic injuries and less than optimal function. Other patients put off colonoscopies and other routine tests. Does this mean the lack of urgency to get medical care has caused a shift in patient’s motivation to follow up on their medical care loner term? Will the shutdown cause a backlog of patients to practices? Will locum tenens physicians be in high demand to play catch up to the backlog of procedures?

Graduating residents and fellows have faced an abrupt change in how to practice medicine. The changes we see now due to the pandemic are changes that probably would have occurred anyway within the next ten years. Although the changes are inevitable, they are premature. What should a finishing resident or fellow do?

Go with the changes, and don’t fight them. Physician job boards provide a way for private practices and hospital recruiters to advertise. is a physician and advanced practice job board with advanced features. Hospital recruiters and agency recruiters use to help them find qualified physicians and advanced practice providers. The tools provided through Doctorjobs save time and allow accessible communication quickly between recruiters and job opportunities. Set alerts to be alerted to appropriate opportunities quickly before the job is closed.

Use video conferencing to screen potential offers. There was a time that residents and fellow spent a good portion of the final training year flying to interviews. Flying to every possible practice opportunity is no longer necessary. Instead, arrange one or more video interviews. Request a smartphone video tour of the facility. Need more information about the community? Do the legwork and google information about the town or facility.

If this seems like too much work to keep up with, work with a staffing firm such as HDA MD Staff to do the leg work for you. A reputable recruiting firm such as HDA MD Staff will market your credentials without exposing your identity. Allow a recruiter to find the answers to questions about the practice. Let them work to find the answers about the town or the facility.

In conclusion, the residents finishing practice today must be more flexible with what a new practice opportunity “should look like.” It may mean a mix of telemedicine and private practice, or possibly a full telemedicine-based medical practice. Explore locum tenens for a while. Try to be more open about geographical requirements.

The changes brought by the pandemic have not reduced the shortage of physicians, but has changed the way physicians practiced. Many of those changes are here to stay.

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