Next generation of physicians demanding more of hospitals, including pay

Physicians in residency across the U.S. are standing up to hospitals across the U.S., demanding better pay.

Residents, interns and fellows who have assumed the role of front-line healthcare providers during the pandemic formally demanded Feb. 22 that Stanford Health Care recognize the Committee of Interns and Residents/SEIU as their exclusive representative for collective bargaining. The group aims to negotiate better pay, working conditions and patient care standards.

"Our hospital is rapidly changing and growing, and unfortunately the burden of extra clinical service has fallen largely on resident physicians without improvement in historic working conditions or compensation, even as our peer institutions have achieved historic salary and benefit improvements," said Stanford third-year pediatrics resident Benjamin Solomon, MD, in a CIR/SEIU release.

University of Massachusetts residents are currently negotiating their first contract after unionizing, and the University of Illinois-Chicago residents recently gained union recognition.

In Seattle, 500 members of the Resident and Fellow Physician Union-Northwest, walked out of University of Washington hospitals Feb. 23 during contract negotiations. The sticking points are long hours and low pay, with residents claiming they are working 80 hours per week for less than minimum wage, according to MyNorthwest, a local news publication.

The University of Washington offered a 1 percent pay raise, but the residents say it isn't enough to keep up with inflation. High student loan debts are also a compounding factor for the training physicians.

"We are essentially in a system of indentured servitude," said Amy Zhang, MD, a resident physician and president of the Resident and Fellow Physician Union-Northwest, to MyNorthwest.

As more residents and fellow physicians mobilize for higher pay and better work conditions in the hospital, opening a private practice could be a more attractive option than employment after graduation. While initial hospital contracts are lucrative, after the first few years, physicians in private practice tend to have higher pay and more control over the care environment.

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