The Financial Burdens Of Becoming An Emergency Medicine Doctor
Emergency room physicians are among the most highly respected and hard working health professionals in the industry. They work in extremely fast-paced environments and see patients that come in all forms and conditions. ER physicians must must adaptable, coolheaded under pressure, and able to work cohesively in team units.
ER physicians serve a vital role for hospitals and are often rewarded with flexible hours and favorable wages. Getting onto the emergency floor, however, requires extensive training that can end up costing more than a mortgage for a home.
Astronomical costs of EM training
In a recent study published in Annals of Emergency Medicine, researchers found that ER physicians accrue roughly 25 percent more debt during their time at medical school than an average U.S. homeowner does when purchasing a mortgage.
Timothy Young, MD, of the department of emergency medicine at Loma Linda (Calif.) Medical Center, lead the California-based study to arrive at this shocking conclusion. He and his team conducted 48 in-depth interviews with emergency room residents and found that the average educational debt for health professionals working in this sector is $212,000, 25 percent higher than the average mortgage in the U.S. — $168,000. Dr. Young said:
“In 2001, less than 20 percent of emergency medicine residents had more than $150,000 of educational debt. By contrast, currently we found an average educational debt of $212,000 for residents in our study. The scary thing is that average debt for emergency medicine residents in our program increased by 56 percent in just 3 years. That pace is unsustainable for most people, even the most committed emergency physician.”
Drowning in medical school loans
Student loans are nothing new for healthcare professionals, but $200K worth of outstanding medical school debt can have a serious impact on physicians, especially ER residents who already have to deal with some of the most stress induced and arbitrary cases in the entire hospital.
ER residents see patients from strung out drug abusers to critically ill babies and psychiatric patients living off the streets. They see victims of child abuse and rape, and patients who have been released from every other medical practice in town because of inappropriate behavior. Moreover, ER physicians often watch as some patients die right in front of their eyes.
The lifestyle of an ER physician is highly stressful and ill-suited for the faint of heart. They are among the top five specialists most likely to get sued and the debt they accrue during medical school often puts them behind their peers financially, according to Medscape. Dr. Young said:
“People assume that doctors are all rich. The amount of debt most physicians carry well into adulthood is under recognized, in some instances putting them well behind their peers in traditional markers of adulthood, such as purchasing a house or saving for retirement.”