One-Third of New Doctors Want a Do-Over, Study Says

October 12, 2011

New doctors are getting swamped by recruiting offers, yet nearly one out of three would choose a field other than medicine if they could go back in time. Why the career dread?

New doctors are getting swamped by recruiting offers, yet nearly one out of three would choose a field other than medicine if they could have a do-over, according to a recently released study conducted by physician recruiting agency Merritt Hawkins. 

Seventy-eight percent of more than 300 physicians surveyed said they had received 50 or more job solicitations during the course of their training, while 47 percent said they had received 100 or more solicitations.

But with numbers like that, how come so many new physicians are dreading the start of their careers? Is it a generational thing?

Phil Miller, vice president of communications for Merritt Hawkins, says the fact that 28 percent of new physicians would select another field - up from 18 percent in 2008 - has more to do with the uncertainty of health reform, the rising cost of malpractice lawsuits, and the sometimes-salty attitude of seasoned docs.

“They just finished their training, you’d think this would be the highest point of their enthusiasm,” Miller told Physicians Practice. “They haven’t felt the real brunts and pressures yet, but they still have a bit of trepidation about becoming a doctor.”

It’s also possible some of them have received malpractice suits during their residencies, he added.

“There are still pressures that they haven’t experienced, but it’s a very volatile time in healthcare right now,” said Miller. “They’re very nervous about where reimbursement is going. I think there’s a certain amount of trickle-down discontent with the doctors they interact with every day. They’re unhappy about reimbursement, about how many patients they have to see to maintain their incomes.”

What’s even more troubling, at least for rural areas, is that only four percent of doctors surveyed by Merritt Hawkins said they would prefer to practice in communities of 25,000 people or less. In addition, only one percent of physicians said they would prefer a solo practice, while 32 percent said they would prefer to be employed by a hospital, up from 22 percent in 2008.

“The days of new doctors hanging out a shingle in an independent solo practice are over,” James Merritt, founder of Merritt Hawkins, said in a press release. “Most new doctors prefer to be employed and let a hospital or medical group handle the business end of medical practice.”