I feel like I speak for most of us when I say; residency was tough. It wasn’t only the hours of work, the fear of not knowing something when an attending was pimping you after being on call for over 24 hours, the humiliation, and the sleep deprivation. It was that feeling of being small. I graduated from residency a decade ago, and I felt relieved when I was done. I felt competent and just scared enough that I would never get too comfortable without triple-checking all of my decisions first. This, to me, made sense.
I have been coaching residents on how to negotiate their first contracts coming out of residency. I noticed the gender pay gap discrepancy, which led me to coach women physicians. And then, I realized there was another major issue with the business of medicine. New attendings signing contracts for low-paying jobs.
When any physician says yes to low-paying hourly or yearly salaries, we all get hurt. We teach the system how much we are worth, so when one accepts low pay, we all end up being underpaid. That is why I started coaching residents. What I have found is residents have been entrained into believing they are unworthy of making money. They will sign anything that pays them more than the stipend they get in residency. Why? They just went through over a decade of training that taught them that they should be grateful for where they get and completely lack self-worth. The number one response I get when I ask residents what they are worried about when they interview for a job is, they say, “I’m worried I won’t get the job because I won’t be what they are looking for.” In their first year of practice, residents are still reacting out of a place of having to “prove” themselves. This needs to change.
Yes, being humble is important in medicine, and the worst thing to do is assume a diagnosis. In business, however, it is important to have footing in knowing your worth when you apply for a job. So why don’t we teach residents more about the business of medicine? Residents need to know that everything is negotiable and how to negotiate and why it’s important to negotiate. Don’t you wish you had that knowledge available to you when you first started looking for a job out of residency?
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