Sometimes it seems like the only financial perk we have as resident physicians is the ability to commiserate with other residents about how little we get paid. It's even worse for medical students - you're shelling out big $$$ for the privilege to provide free labor to your medical school and training hospitals. But all is not lost. Here are 8 financial perks of being a resident physician (most also apply to medical students).
1. Free (Cheap) medical references & software
While most medical schools and residency programs have medical libraries, I can count on one hand how many times I've walked into my hospital's medical library for a reference. Instead of textbooks, the physicians of tomorrow learn via glowing screens big and small. Many training programs offer great reference tools such as Uptodate and Epocrates for free to their trainees. Even if your program is too cheap to pay for a license, these companies usually offer a discounted subscription to trainees. For example, Uptodate charges $499/year for a practicing physician but only $199/year for a trainee subscription. If your training institution is affiliated with a larger university, you can often get any number of valuable software titles for free or at a significant discount - e.g. Microsoft Office, EndNote, Adobe Acrobat and Photoshop products.
2. Discounted Professional Society Memberships
Joining the fraternity of doctors can be expensive. Luckily for you, those who have gone before you understand the financial pressures you are under and (most) have decided that you get to join this exclusive club for a reduced fee - sometimes even for FREE. Take my future specialty for example, the Society of Interventional Radiology (SIR) has many membership categories, each with wildly different membership fees:
3. Discounted Meeting Registration Fees
This falls in the same line as professional society membership fees. The same societies who have decided to let you join the club for cheap are also kind enough to invite you to their annual party on the cheap. Sometimes even with bonus perks like free food and resident-specific education sessions. Continuing the example with SIR, the SIR annual meeting also offers discounted registration fees to in-training members:
4. Free (Cheap) Food
Many residency training programs offer free or subsidized food to residents. My residency training institution offers free food for residents through the physicians' lounge which serves hot breakfast and lunch every day. For those who are on-call, there is a fridge stocked with prepackaged sandwiches, salads, drinks etc. Training programs differ and your mileage may vary. For example, my internship institution only offered a meal card that was preloaded with a set amount of $ and I ran out well before the end of the year. But even in programs where free food is not offered, they usually will at least give you an employee discount when purchasing food from the cafeteria.
5. Free (Cheap) Quality Health Insurance
Turns out there is one big benefit to providing cheap labor to a hospital - your health insurance is usually covered. Most residency programs I interviewed at as a medical student offered free or heavily subsidized health insurance for their residents and fellows, often at much lower premiums compared to their non-clinical employees. Some even go as far as covering your entire family for free. Of course, free insurance is useless if it's a bad plan. Luckily hospitals realize that it's to their benefit if their most valuable employees stay healthy which is to say - most residency sponsored insurance policies are good.
6. Employee Discounts
Many residency training programs are hosted by universities or large hospital systems. As such, your school or employer will often have a number of pre-negotiated discounts with retailers and service providers. Your employer may have negotiated these discounts on their own or participate in a work perks alliance such as Perkspot. Even if you have no clue whether or not such a program exists, I encourage you to type "your employer's name employee discounts" into google and find out. It takes all of 5 seconds and can save you hundreds.
7. Physician Mortgages (Doctor Loans)
Full disclosure - several leading physician mortgage providers are sponsors of FPMD, just take a look to the right side of the screen. But I'm not going to promote any specific loan provider. Rather, if you are definitely interested in buying over renting, I highly recommend at least considering a physician mortgage. It is essentially the only subprime mortgage left on the market after the financial crisis and we are the only people able to benefit. For more information, check out my previous post Doctor Loans - A Unique Perk for the Healthcare Professional.
8. Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)
Regular FPMD readers are well versed in the details of PSLF. If this is your first time visiting, be sure to check out my previous posts on PSLF. Here is the great thing about being a resident - our low income and massive student loan debt combine to make us perfect candidates to take advantage of the generous benefits of an Income Driven Repayment (IDR) plan and PSLF. Practicing physicians are unlikely to benefit as their high income will likely negate the benefits of an income driven repayment. And medical students can't participate because you have to be in repayment to take advantage.
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