Desperately seeking a job isn’t a position in which most otolaryngology residency graduates ever expected to find themselves. Pre-COVID-19, jobs were plentiful for otolaryngologists, some of the most-sought-after medical specialists.
Explore This IssueSeptember 2020
“We saw residents waiting until the very end, sometimes until the second half of their last semester, to choose the opportunity they wanted,” said Travis Singleton, executive vice president of Merritt Hawkins/AMN Leadership Solutions, a physician search and consulting firm. “I get why that happened: They were in a 10-year strong market where there were always jobs. It was just about which one. You wanted to wait until the very end. You were the No. 1 draft pick a week before the draft.”
This isn’t the case for many otolaryngologists completing residency or switching jobs right now, said Singleton, who has helped clients hire physicians for the past 15 years.
“We’re seeing a lot of offers rescinded, especially for those coming out of residency who thought they had something lined up. Frankly, because groups aren’t growing anymore and are not seeing more patients, they can’t justify bringing in more payroll,” he said.
Merritt Hawkins/AMN Healthcare reports that search requests for healthcare providers have decreased by more than 30% since March 31, 2020. “It’s a reversal of a market that we haven’t seen in 50 years, since they invented Medicare. Words like ‘layoffs’ and ‘furloughs’ have never been associated with the physician occupation,” Singleton said.
By many accounts, things do appear grim. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the healthcare sector lost 1.5 million jobs between February and April (although it has been adding jobs ever since). The financial impact of the pandemic seems to have cut across practice environments. Of the medical practices surveyed by the Medical Group Management Association in April, 97% say they have experienced a negative financial impact. The same survey reports that medical practices across the United States have lost more than half of their normal revenue and patient volume. Meanwhile, the American Hospital Association reports that hospitals and health systems lost $200 billion in the first quarter of this year.
But amidst all this bad news are some hopeful accounts. ENTtoday spoke with four otolaryngologists who have found opportunities despite these challenging times.
Life doesn’t always go as expected. And when it doesn’t, you have to be able to adapt. … But above all, stay positive and make the most out of your situation. Things will all work out in the end, perhaps even better than you had originally planned. —Blake Raggio, MD
Word of Mouth Works
Sandra Ho, MD, had a job lined up before her training was scheduled to end. But in mid-April, the practice where she had planned to work shuttered. This happened two months before she was expected to finish her otolaryngology residency at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University in Brooklyn, N.Y. Dr. Ho applied to locum tenens jobs all over the country, only to find out after much back and forth with recruiters that most of the positions were no longer available.
“When they did tell me that something had opened, they said I would have to take a competitive rate because there were 16 other applicants,” she said.
Dr. Ho also applied for permanent jobs in New York City, where she hoped to stay, as well as for positions as far away as Hawaii. She was frustrated to submit applications, only to find out later that the employers had initiated hiring freezes or weren’t looking to bring in anyone new for another six to eight months. Dr. Ho let her mentors and fellow residents know she was in need of a job—soon. Good old word of mouth paid off when a fellow resident landed a job at a practice in Queens, N.Y., and told her about another opening in the same group. She’s now one of four physicians at a general otolaryngology practice, working for a salary she considers to be competitive for her geographic area.
Her advice? Apply widely and don’t be picky. “You may need to sacrifice pay and location. I consider myself lucky to have a job,” she said.