Sunday, September 16, 2012

Glorious resident lifestyle of the not rich or famous

You are sitting in the pediatric ER with your child that may or may not have appendicitis. First, you saw the medical student who talked to you for 30 minutes. Then you saw a tired looking pediatric resident who talked to you about the exact same thing for 15 minutes. Then you saw a much more awake pediatric ER attending physician who talked to you for five minutes, agreed to admit your child, and get a surgical consult. 30 minutes later, the surgery resident sleepwalks in, presses on your child's belly and mumbles that he's getting a CT of the abdomen with a blood draw, and wanders away.

D@mn, you've been here 3 hours and what the heck? Why did those residents look so tired and am I seriously expected to leave them in charge of my child?

Before discussing the actual resident lifestyle, let's lead with resident compensation. The federal government pays teaching hospitals $200,000 to train each resident per year. The resident is actually paid, pre tax, in the $40-50K range. Med students pay $40-50K for the privilege of training.

During my residency, I had an 80 hour work week and no call lasting more than 30 hours. New regulations recently moved the limit to a 60 hour work week, no first year call over 18 hours, and no later year calls more than 24 hours per the schedule. Some leeway is given for emergencies and unstable patients.

How did that translate into actual money and hours? Well, I made $40k my intern year. I worked 80 hours a week while on service, did not have any holidays off, got three weeks of call free vacation and one call free month. That averaged out to 70 hours a week for 49 weeks - 3430 hours a year. Taxes/insurance took about 20% of my salary, no 401K for such lowly peons. That led to $32K over 3420 hours - $9.35/hour. That is similar to a McDonald's manager, except a typical resident is 27 and already completed 4 years of college and 4 years of medical school.

Oh, I got two $5 coupons for hospital cafeteria food for each call night. An 80 hour work week required call every 4th night, which I got to do for 45 weeks of the year. 45weeks x 7 days/4 days is 79 calls x $10 = $790 in 'food' perks. Yes, just like the McDonald's manager.

How anyone can pay off their $150K+ in loans on a salary of $9.35/hr and $80/month in 'food' perks just boggles the mind. Does anyone have that much self control when working 80 hours a week? If you were wondering, the 60 hour work week essentially will remove call free months for everyone, so do the same calculation with 60 hours - $10.88/hr with less food perks.

So what was my personal resident financial lifestyle like? I lived across from the hospital, so I didn't ahve a car. I was supporting first 2, then 2.5, and then 3 people on my salary alone. (Remember HubbyJD was originally HubbyLawStudent?). I packed my own lunches and used my cafeteria cards to buy food that I took home. Keeping kosher, I was able to take milk, cereal, fruit, hot chocolate home with the plastic silverware in $5 increments every 4 days.

Stay tuned for more glorious residency lifestyle next week . . .


  1. I love the posts like this. My husband and I are planning to have a baby now before I enter med school so that I'm not dealing with a newborn, but that also means added expenses because we'll have a growing kid to feed. help ease my anxiety! I'm sure it'll make it worse, but alas, it will all be figured out somehow.

  2. Look at for a little bit and take a deep breath. Keep in mind that the first two years of medical school are like intense semesters in college, no clinical time. Treat it like a job and see if the medical school/local university offers daycare at a reduced rate for students. (BTW, the hubby should work full time)

    1. I read that which helped. We both live a very frugal and 'small' life which I anticipate we'll continue with. And yes, my husband is working and will continue to work full time. The med schools I'm looking at fortunately do have daycare (though unfortunately not my undergraduate school) so I'll think between that and my husband we'll be able to work that out. Thanks for the advice, I look forward to continuing to follow your journey!