By Christine Whitmarsh, RN, BSN
“Reducing medical school debt” was one of the planned topics of discussion at this week’s American Medical Association annual meeting in Chicago. At least that was the plan before President Obama’s controversial announcement regarding caps on malpractice lawsuits (or lack thereof). Hopefully, the subject of medical school debt was not lost in the back and forth in the equally important conversation about health care reform. Because it may be a topic as old as medical school itself, but the looming six figure debt of medical school remains a big factor in the decision to become a doctor. Travel assignments are increasingly being considered to help with debt.
The Association of American Medical Colleges quotes the current estimate of how much debt medical students graduate with, as $126,714 and growing. The AMA proposes to reduce this number through increased tax deductions for tuition and loans and increasing scholarship funds at the state and federal level. They also wish to shorten the duration of medical school by combining various degree programs and curriculums. These proposals are all, of course, dependent on Congressional action. Last year, as part of their renewal of the Higher Education Act, Congress pushed for more transparency in medical school loans, so students have a clear idea of the debt they are taking on when entering medical school. Simply put the level of debt that medical students graduate with, would take an individual in another profession, several decades to rack up.
Although there is no easy solution for tackling such debt, a Locum Tenens job, locum job, or travel doctor assignment for a locum physician can help. First, Locum travel jobs offer competitive salaries, often double or triple what doctors can earn in a permanent physician. Second, accepting a traveling physician assignment in the destination of your choice helps alleviate the physician shortage, especially in general practice, where doctors are needed the most.
Christine Whitmarsh is a Registered Nurse with a BSN from the University of Rhode Island. She is a freelance health journalist and medical writer and a contributor to Travel Nurse Source and Allied Travel Careers.