Industry Trends

Are residents happy? Highlights from Medscape’s 2017 report

resident lifestyle - featured image of medscape residents lifestyle and happiness report 2017 title slide
Source: Medscape Residents Lifestyle & Happiness Report 2017 –

The resident lifestyle is a mix of challenges and stressors, with some joy and fulfillment sprinkled in as well. That’s according to the Medscape Residents Lifestyle & Happiness Report 2017. The study includes insights from more than 1,500 medical residents in over 25 specialties. Here’s a quick sample of what they revealed in their responses.

Top resident lifestyle challenges

It probably comes as no surprise that resident’s listed work-life balance as their biggest challenge (33%). This complication also topped the charts in 2016 and 2015. Dealing with time pressures was the second-greatest challenge (19%) this year, as well as in 2016.

One result of this lack of time and balance is that less than half (47%) of residents said they sometimes take time for their own personal health and wellness, while 36% said they rarely or never do. However, residents are not surprised by this, since 43% say the balance between their personal and professional lives is on par with what they were expecting.

Furthermore, less than one-fifth (18%) say they always or mostly have time to lead a satisfying social life, while 37% say they never or rarely have time. And 68% say they have seen relationships fail because they don’t have adequate time for a social life.

Avoiding burnout

With an eye toward avoiding burnout, 66% of residents said a manageable work schedule and call-hours would help relieve stress. 42% said the best cure would be sufficient compensation. Another 39% of residents said reasonable patient loads would help the most, while 38% listed flexible scheduling.

resident lifestyle - image of report graph showing top survey results on ways to avoid burnout
Source: Medscape Residents Lifestyle & Happiness Report 2017 –

Exploring locum tenens for burnout prevention

One way to insure a flexible and manageable schedule is to seek out locum tenens jobs. Currently, 20% of residents are working locum tenens right out of training. If you’re not sure what that’s all about, or if you would like a closer look at this popular practice alternative, check out

Locum tenens practice offers a variety of benefits for healthcare providers at any career stage. In the past, this practice alternative may have been associated mainly with seasoned doctors looking to ease into retirement. Then mid-career physicians realized it was a great way to travel or add some variety to their routine. Currently, growing numbers of residents are reaping significant benefits, such as earning supplemental income to pay back school loans, and test-driving different practice settings and geographical regions before committing to a long-term position.

A real-life locum tenens success story

Take the case of Larry Daugherty, MD, for instance. Locum tenens opportunities allowed him to see different ways to run a practice, work with different types of electronic health records, and try various medical equipment and technology, all before taking his first permanent position. “Locums not only helped me make ends meet as a resident and help me pay off some bills,” he recalls, “but with hindsight became extremely valuable because I was able to see the diversity of different practices, what I liked, what I didn’t like.” Dr. Daugherty’s video offers more insights for residents.

Fortunately, residents are resilient and optimistic. Regardless of the challenges they may face, the majority are eager to start their medical careers. The Medscape report found that 85% are still looking forward to working as a doctor. And when they start searching for a first job, 38% will make their work schedule and call hours a top consideration. Starting salary (15%) also ranked high. For more information on what residents earn, check out our blog post on the Medscape Residents Salary & Debt Report.


About the author

Lisa Daggett

Lisa Daggett is well-versed on the topic of locum tenens staffing and was a regular contributor to LocumLife, Healthcare Traveler, and Travel Nurse magazines. She served as associate editor of RN Magazine and as an editorial assistant for Business & Health.


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