Life & residency

What’s it really like to live like a resident?

In Medscape’s 2018 Residents Lifestyle and Happiness Report, residents say they want better work-life balance.

Residents want more time.

In Medscape’s 2018 Residents Lifestyle and Happiness Report, one of the greatest challenges for residents was work-life balance. More than 1,900 residents in over 29 specialties responded to the survey about stress, relationships, burnout and expectations for their postgraduate training.

Personal wellness

About one-third of men cited never having time or rarely having time for personal wellness compared to 40% of women. Survey respondents said work schedule/call hours are their top priority for their first job after residency, with 75% of the residents surveyed listing this as a critical factor in a position.

What residents said they’d look for in their first job

Factor Percentage of residents who cited factor
Work schedule/call hours 75%
Starting salary/compensation 66%
Supportive organizational/practice environment 49%
Potential for career advancement 29%
Educational/professional growth opportunities 28%
Amount of staff support 20%
Prestige of organization 13%
Organization’s/practice’s patient population 12%


Not surprisingly, residents said having more personal time would help them avoid burnout. Nearly two-thirds of residents said having manageable work schedules/call hours would reduce their stress levels, and nearly 40% said schedule flexibility would ease their stress burden.

Residents said they relieve stress by watching Netflix, exercising, cooking, meditating and spending time with loved ones.

What would help residents avoid burnout?

Factor Percentage of residents who cited factor
Manageable work schedule/call hours 64%
Sufficient compensation to avoid financial stress 41%
Reasonable patient loads 40%
Positive attitudes of colleagues 38%
Flexibility of schedule 38%
Amount of staff support 34%
Adequate amount of paid vacation 27%
Educational/professional growth opportunities 12%

Go to Medscape for the full report to learn more about the lives of today’s residents.


  1. david hill

    Work life balance? You have to be joking right? Maximum hours is now 80 a week. How many hours do they suggest ? And without extending the length of residency?

  2. Christopher Unrein,

    Residency is not supposed to be about income and work-life balance. I am sorry (not really) that is just the way it is – grow-up! Work life after residency will be a rude awakening-call. I have hear nothing less than that from many of the residents I have helped train!

    No matter what generation you are in, residency is about the federal government funding and supporting your education, so you are in a income supported system (welfare if you want to call it that) – you should be thankful for that. You could be charged for residency (like tuition), thank God it has not come to that! There are those that think you should not be !

    Residents should be looking for programs that focus on education and making them the best physicians that they can be – not work life balance. I did the calculations and I realize that the education debt from when I went to school has outstripped inflammation. That said as physicians, we will make a decent living in the long-run and be able to pay our debts. Think long-game here. Isn’t it about our passion for taking care of our fellow members of society?

  3. Ma Ko

    I’m just speaking for myself, but my personal feeling is that I don’t mind a standard residency extending as needed (eg 1 year extra) if hours shifted in a way that not only acknowledged and allowed for the benefits of personal time and personal life for residents, but also acknowledged the scientific fact that learning, as a process, is based on repetition. One cannot and should not try to cram the scope of practice of medicine, including today’s advances and new information, which is constantly evolving, into a shorter period of time. It’s unrealistic

  4. Dr. Parks, DO, MBA, BSN

    How about residency programs be required to prioritize education? No reason why surgery residency is 110 hours per week. The problem is residency seems to be centered around making the attendings life easier. I wouldn’t pay $1 for the current training I’m receiving. Learning is option, just make sure you get the note done. Residency is centered around cheap labor.

  5. Kenneth Writesel,D.O.,M.P.H.

    The current millennial generations concept of life has been unrealistic since their birth. They have run to their safe places, been protected from triggers, and all the rest of the make believe world they live in. Now it’s time to cut and clamp the cord, suck it up, and get ready for the real world! Post doctoral training is a privilege provided to physicians. It is the last opportunity to practice “in the womb”. It’s the opportunity to become a physician. Yes, the hours and responsibilities are tough. But trust me , it pales in comparison to the real world. Medicine is a calling to serve our fellow man. You should embrace every opportunity to develop and enhance your skills before yours becomes the ultimate responsibility.

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