Stress in medical residency: Status quo after a decade of reform?

Virginia U. Collier, Jack D. McCue, Allan Markus, Lawrence Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

211 Scopus citations


Background: Although curricular reforms have attempted to address sources of stress in medical residency, no recent studies have examined the financial or emotional situations of current medicine residents. Objective: To question medicine residents about financial status, educational debt, moonlighting, and psychological issues. Design: Survey distributed in a nonrandomized fashion to medicine residents. Setting: All 415 U.S. medicine residency programs. Results: According to the questionnaire responses submitted by the 4128 (18%) participating residents, a substantial number of residents had financial and emotional distress that could have interfered with training. The reported educational debt was at least $50 000 for 1657 (42%) of the respondents and at least $100 000 for 737 (19%). The monthly disposable income was $100 or less for 1620 (43%) of the residents, and 637 residents (16%) could not afford safe housing. Among respondents in their 2nd through 5th year of postgraduate training, 2187 (52%) had insufficient funds to purchase books and equipment, and 678 (29%) could not afford the required fees for the American Board of Internal Medicine certifying examination; 2659 (33%) worked as moonlighters, and this percentage increased progressively with increasing educational debt. Four or five depressive symptoms during residency were reported by 1461 (35%) residents. Eight hundred ninety-nine residents (23%) thought they had become less humanistic over the course of their residency training; 2347 (61%) reported becoming more cynical. Female residents were more likely than male residents to report increased cynicism and multiple depressive symptoms. Increased cynicism and depressive symptoms were associated with increasing educational debt. Conclusions: Despite recent curricular reforms, an alarming number of current medicine residents report depressive symptoms, increasing cynicism, and decreasing humanism, which were associated with increasing educational debt and a need to moonlight for financial survival. Ongoing curricular reform, legislative relief from early loan repayment, and salary increases may be necessary to address these problems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)384-390
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of Internal Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - 5 Mar 2002
Externally publishedYes


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