We Hear You...

"WOHOOO! Congrats to you for such great accomplishment! Way to make history."

"Thanks to you all for all of your hard work in making this happen! Bravo!"

 

"UW does a relatively poor job of recruiting students that are under-represented in medicine. While this obviously happens for many reasons, I have anecdotally heard from [people] of many diverse backgrounds that the lack of financial support to live in an increasingly expensive housing market creates a level of stress that isn't sustainable when considering the stress of residency training. Let's please work to mitigate this stress!"

 

"I rarely go out to eat because it is too expensive and if I do, my husband and I share a meal because it is cheaper. We live in a 1 bedroom apartment. Over half of my salary goes to paying rent. We are choosing not to have children right now because we cannot afford it. We cannot afford to buy a car, and if we could, I could not drive it to work because I could not afford parking. Lack of finances is a daily stress on my life, just adding to the stresses of working an intense job with little time outside of work. Our salary does not correlate with the cost of living in Seattle."

 

"After my wife got sick we couldn't afford her medical bill because of the high cost of living and our paltry salary. We had to foreclose on our house and are now living paycheck to paycheck."

 

"I was so happy to match at UW as my first choice program, but I was not aware of the financial hardships that I would face. Prior to even starting residency, I had to take out private loans to move across the country, visit Seattle to find an apartment, put down a security deposit on my apartment, pay my first month's rent, and cover the cost of my Washington State Medical License. I have found myself struggling to pay back these loans and cover the high cost of living in Seattle, such as the high cost of basic expenses like rent, groceries, and gas. I also worry about the how I will be able to pay back my student loans that will soon go into repayment and pay for my Step 3 exam. Given these financial strains, I also worry I will not be able to afford a plane ticket to visit my family over the holidays, which was the main vacation I was looking forward to in order to get myself through the stress of the first few months of intern year. For how extremely dedicated I am to my work as a resident, I am saddened by feelings that the institution doesn't care about my well being. At this point, I often wish I had just stayed at the institution where I completed medical school, where the salary is about the same (but in a much lower cost of living area) and where I wouldn't have to worry about when I will be able to see my family again."

 

"I recently had to take two second jobs that I could complete from home. They are unrelated to the medical field. The menial nature of the work I do outside of the hospital is not beneath me but it is tremendously disheartening to have a medical degree and need to perform tasks that I could have performed as a high school graduate just to make ends meet."

 

"As an anesthesiology resident, I love my work caring for patients as they are preparing for, undergoing surgery, and recovering afterward. Just earlier today, my patient reached for and held my hand as I was giving report in PACU and held it for a few moments, as a few tears fell from her eyes. She thanked me for comforting her and for getting her safely through surgery. It is this trust my patients have in me and the excellent care that this phenomenal residency program teaches me to provide to even the most complex of patients that keeps me going from day to day. The sad truth is, however, that our patients have no idea how poorly we are compensated for this work that we provide. Last week, I made approximately $10/hr, arguably the lowest paid staff in the hospital, and each month, I pay over $500 toward my student loans. Student debt has skyrocketed, and as the first in my family to attend college, I do not have the safety net that many others have while trying to support myself. I have absolutely no financial reserve as Seattle's costs of living skyrocket and I have unexpected educational and other expenses I'm expected to front ($400 for that medical license, every year? Coming up with hundreds of dollars to attend the ASA and participate in academic work?) I am humiliated having to ask my 83 year old grandfather to lend me the money I needed earlier in the year when a component from my bike (which I use to commute) was stolen and I had an expensive repair. My family (none of whom is in the medical field) is struck with complete disbelief as I explain my situation, and my colleagues who have pursued even basic bachelor's degrees can buy homes, start families, save for retirement, purchase a new car, travel, etc, none of which are accessible to me. As residents, we are some of the hardest working and brightest individuals in the nation and most Americans have absolutely no concept of the physical, emotional, and financial struggles we face on a daily basis. Actions speak louder than words, UW administration, and as the people who keep the UW hospitals up and running on days, nights, weekends, and holidays we feel that our work and sacrifices are going unrecognized and under appreciated. All we're asking for is for fair treatment - paid parental leave, parking and food stipends, and wages that support our ability to meet modest costs of living in Seattle. As a single individual with no dependents, I'm happy to utilize public transportation and cycling to commute to work, but what about my colleague with two children to pick up from daycare? The argument can go on and on, but there are just a few of my thoughts."

 

"I was happy to see UW announcing that it would increase minimum wage for all workers to $15 per hour. But unfortunately, that will not apply to all workers, particularly residents who are on a salary. As an intern, I regularly worked 70-80 hours a week, equaling an hourly rate of around $12-13. My pay has increased over the years and hours decreased, but I still get paid significantly less than non-resident/fellow practitioners who are doing the same jobs. Compared to PAs and ARNPs, residents and fellows are working longer hours and have more responsibility, yet are paid less. And residents and fellows typically have significantly more debt. I graduated medical school with over $300,000 in debt. I am on an income-based repayment schedule, which is great at decreasing my loan payments, but it just means that interest is piling on and I will owe that much more in the future. Resident/fellow salaries are, when adjusted for inflation, less than they have ever been, and this is not even accounting for the rising debt load of medical school graduates. I don't even have the promise of delayed gratification that physicians of yesterday had--no one knows what will happen to physician salaries in the coming years. It's no surprise that young physicians are avoiding primary care and academic jobs; they can't afford it. A little extra help now would go a long way toward financial security in the future, and it would also fairly compensate trainees for the actual work that they are doing now."

 

"I work hard each day -- both at the hospital and at home. As a mother, however, life as a resident is by no means easy. Add to this the stress of finding quality, affordable childcare and that is a lot to have on one person's plate. I have been essentially told that I will not make it off the UW daycare waiting list, and I have come to accept that this is not a viable childcare option for UW residents (despite the advertisement of this "resource" when I was a residency applicant). Instead, parents must brave the Seattle childcare market, which is very competitive and expensive. Infant childcare often runs greater than $2,000/month. Add to that the costs of evening and weekend childcare due to late work days and call and a resident finds that she uses a large chunk of her paycheck just for childcare! This is a very important issue, and the university has ignored it for too long. If you want residents to achieve any sort of work life balance, then childcare needs must be considered a priority."

 

"A few weekends ago I left town to attend the memorial of a dear family member who had died. I had just rotated off service and in between family gatherings I made time to complete interim summaries for all my patients and to work over the phone with medical students to improve theirs. I did this because I care deeply about my patients, and generally, was more familiar with the details of their hospital course than my attendings. My parents-in-law both have terminal illnesses, and my husband and I are facing the prospect of caring for them as well as our three old. I know I will be in a position of not being able to provide as much time and help as I would like, because there is not enough flexibility in residency to accommodate part time schedules, time off, etc. I also know that I will not be able to financially contribute much to their care despite the long hours I will be working. To have the service I provide be so essential to the functioning of the hospital, and yet so poorly compensated at the same time, is a tremendous burden to me and my family. Yes, I am receiving a highly valuable training, and will some day have a more rewarding, high earning, and flexible career. But is it worth the sacrifice? Is it worth the missed moments with family members who will likely not be around when those days finally come? It doesn’t have to be this way."

 

"I moved to Seattle for residency, by myself, and since my hours are so rigorous (90-100 every week), I decided to live in the middle of the 3 hospitals where I work. Since it costs a fortune to park at UWMC and HMC, I couldn't afford to get a car. But since there is no public or university sponsored transportation that runs at the hours I need to get to the VA for my inpatient rotation, I am spending $1000 this month just to rent a car (not to mention, gas, etc). That is as much as my monthly rent and it is my only option. And my hours at the VA are 90-100/week because the majority of my patients are either indigent or unfortunately receiving terminal diagnoses, and helping them to reach a diagnosis, come to terms with it, and plan the rest of their lives is a priority I place higher than my own financial goals. However, if I had more than one inpatient rotation at the VA this year, I have no idea what I'd do."

 

"When interviewing here I was repeatedly told about the responsiveness and flexibility of the administration towards resident concerns. While I have largely found this to be true at the level of my program, the university's lack of a meaningful response toward these contract negotiations is truly disheartening. I give so much to care for my patients, at great expense to my personal life and well-being. The university's failure to make any reasonable effort to further meet our needs only adds insult to the injury of struggling on a monthly basis to make finances work. I'm saddened to say that it makes me somewhat resentful of this institution I was so eager to join."

 

"We were paying > $28,000 a year annually for child care. The cost of in state tuition for the University of Washington undergrad is ~$27,000. The ONLY reason we are paying less now is that we waited for OVER two years to get in to the UW subsidized day care- and we are now paying close to $20,000. A second child would cost up to $36,000 a year, subsidized.  What is a resident to do?" 

 

"I have cut back on expenses as much as I can, and I am still taking on credit card debt in order to try paying the minimum required on student loans on an income adjusted payment plan. I have ridden my bicycle all four years of residency. When I crashed said bicycle requiring 5 stitches to my ankle, I had a surgery resident suture the wound at a friends apartment to avoid paying my high deductible. I have taken on a roommate. I want to get engaged, but I can't even think about buying a ring! It didn't strike me how backwards this is until I have NPs asking me for patient care advice, and here I am in a perpetual debt cycle subsidizing the care for a university posting net income millions in the black. I will be moving for fellowship because I cant afford to work at UW any longer. The irony is I will have a hard time paying for the move now that UW has stalled any hopes of saving for even the simplest of life events. It is disgusting that as a resident about to graduate and potentially practice on my own, I am still struggling just to make monthly expenses much less have any savings for emergencies."

 

"1. This is my 5th year as a UW residnet or fellow. Because of my low salary I have not been able to afford health insurance for my husband. He went without any insurance for 2 years. When he needed surgery he qualified and signed up for free insurance through obama care. Without this we would not have been able to afford his treatment. 2. Because my salary is low, I choose not to take leave while pregnant. I worked until I went into labor which was not recommended by my own health providers. I will have limited time to care for my newborn, as there is no paid maternity leave and I must return to work to support my single-income family. 3. Because of my low salary I have not been able to afford parking at the UW/Harborview. As a result, at times I have had to park in neighborhoods and walk to the hospital. I know this has put me at risk, as several residents who do the same have had their cars burglarized.

 

"On the interview trail I recall nearly every program I went to offered parking for the residents. UW is unique in that it has three hospitals which we can rotate through. However, because of this, there is not really one area of the city that allows a person to easily commute to all three hospitals. I try to take public transportation as much as possible, but the reality is, when I'm getting off work at 10pm and having to start at 6:30am, there are few direct routes at those hours and generally take over an hour to get to or from work, while driving takes 15 mins. When I am already low on sleep and want to spend as much quality time with my family as I am able to, a long commute via public transportation is not a reasonable option. As a result, on many inpatient rotations I am forced to drive and parking is exceptionally expensive. The parking amounts to nearly the same amount as my monthly student loan payments. If I were able to double the amount of money I put toward paying off student loans this would save me an exponential amount of money in the long run. Residents nation wide have a growing amount of debt and are looking for programs that provide an excellent education, but also provide compensation that will help them transition into the work place without continuing to struggle financially. If UW does not keep up with the benefits that other programs are offering I fear that the reality of mounting debt may supersede the excellent education that we are offered here."

 

"I graduated at the top of my class but with $168,000 in medical school loans. UW paid the least out of my top three residency choices and I am absolutely feeling the consequences in this expensive city. I cannot afford a car and I often eat all 21 meals at the hospital (yes, that is 7 days a week) by stretching my alloted $10/day as far as it will go. Before rounds, I eat the snacks meant for patients because I am still hungry. I will not be staying at UW for fellowship--I can't afford to unless something changes."

 

"I had to leave my 3 month old baby in Europe for 2 months due to lack of childcare availability on starting fellowship in 2013:residents and fellows are at a huge disadvantage given the short grace period that we have to get into daycare programs post match- our infant went through 2 extortionate day care providers before a place became available in a UW subsidized facility after 18 months on a waiting list; had my husband not worked outside of medicine we certainly would have had to quit Seattle and the fellowship due to cost."