More medical professionals across the country are joining a union known as the Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR).
They want a stronger collective voice as they advocate for a safe and healthy training environment as they grow into full-fledged practicing physicians.
“Residents of Penn and across the country organize because unions provide an opportunity for residents to work together for better working conditions and support systems,” said Dr. Chioma Elechi, a first-year emergency medicine physician at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, told Fox News Digital.
Residents want more decent work hours and breaks, fair pay, and improved social benefits like health insurance and access to mental health resources, Elechi also said.
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“By sitting at the table on institutional decisions, we can work together with our institutions to create a healthier and more sustainable work environment,” she added.
Here’s a deeper dive into what’s going on.
What are residents? Why is that important?
Sir William Osler created the first residency program in the United States. New doctors lived in the hospital, so they were referred to as “residents,” according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Over time, residents no longer lived in the hospitals where they trained, but the term became synonymous with doctors in training.
“Physicians in private practice are medical school graduates who are in an apprenticeship program that constitutes work-based training,” said Dr. Jonathan B. Jaffery, Chief Health Care Officer of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) in Washington, D.C., told Fox News Digital.
“Their primary role in the program is to be trained under the direct and indirect supervision of a teaching physician so that upon completion of residency training they are prepared to be fully independent practicing physicians.”
The Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR) represents 76 residency programs in nine states.
Residents in the United States began forming unions dating back to 1934, when the Internal Council of Greater New York organized for better working conditions, more education, and compensation – since until then, according to the AAMC, they were not being paid.
More residency programs organized despite legal hurdles that said residents did not have the right to unionize, according to the AAMC, because they were still in training.
In 1999, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that residents were employees in relation to federal labor laboratories. But it also confirmed that the residents were “students,” so the board couldn’t intervene when it came to their education, according to a previous report.
CIR is now the largest ‘domestic staff’ union representing junior doctors.
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It represents 76 residency programs in nine states with a total of 25,000 members, Sunyata Altenor, CIR’s communications director in Long Island City, New York, told Fox News Digital.
Over the past five years, the healthcare system has increased its residents’ salaries by almost 18% in the first year.
A large majority of the more than 1,400 interns employed by the University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS) have recently called for formal recognition of a union with the CIR, according to a recent press release.
They are the eighth group of resident doctors to join the union in the past 11 months, the press release said.
However, Penn Medicine is advocating a solution through its existing Graduate Medical Education Committee structure by working directly with UPHS administration, a Penn Medicine spokesperson told Fox News Digital.
Over the past five years, the health system has increased salaries for its first-year residents by almost 18%, “making our wages extremely competitive compared to local and national peer institutions.”
According to Penn Medicine’s website, its first-year residents will be making more than $69,000 a year starting in July.
Trainees also receive retirement benefits including employer contributions, reimbursement for required national tests and medical licensing costs.
That’s almost a 7% increase from current levels, “with increases of 7.5% to 11% as Residents and Fellows move from one year to the next over the course of their multi-year education,” the spokesperson added.
The trainees will also receive retirement benefits including employer contributions, reimbursement for required national testing and medical licensing costs, and subsidized public transport, which many of the house workers use, the spokesman noted.
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The NLRB plans to hold the residents’ election in May this year.
working time restrictions
Local residents who join unions often advocate for better working hours, as residents often work long and irregular hours, often with few breaks and little sleep.
In 2003, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) ordered work hours restrictions out of concerns for patient safety and overworked residents, according to its website.
The working time regulation came into effect in July 2011 and found that residents per ACGME were only allowed to work an average of a maximum of 80 hours per week over a four-week period.
Experts are reminding people that residency training is also an invaluable training environment for physicians in training to become independent physicians – but many residents are too overwhelmed with their hospital demands to focus fully on learning.
The AAMC said it is working to ensure good education for residents.
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“By providing education and training for faculty, faculty and residents in the healthcare system, we work to ensure residents receive effective training and support from teaching hospitals and medical schools that address both resident concerns and a career in prepared for medicine,” Jaffery noted.
Many residents feel a loss of control when applying for a job as a resident through the National Resident Matching Program.
“AAMC convenes two professional development groups specifically to address residents’ education and concerns at the national level: the Resident Affairs Group and the Resident Representative Organization.”
Many residents also feel a loss of control when applying for a position as a resident through the National Resident Matching Program, also known as “The Match.”
“Following the application and interview process, students submit a ‘match list’ detailing the programs they are interested in and residency programs submit a ranking of the students they are interested in,” says Dr. Candice Chen, associate professor of health policy and management at George Washington University in Washington, DC, told Fox News Digital.
A computer algorithm attempts to “match” students to a place on the course based on the top picks of both student and residency.
If they “match” they must go to that residence.
“You can see that this process is different from how we apply to jobs or even colleges/medical schools, so there’s some argument that it’s the nature of the competition and negotiations between students and residency programs,” Chen added in an email.
The program tries to maximize the placement of nearly 40,000 people each year, Chen added.
“This process is different from how we apply to jobs or even to colleges/medical schools.”
“Medical graduates will be matched to their jobs for the next three to nine years by the match algorithm, which removes the ability for applicants to choose their jobs and negotiate benefits that may contribute to unfair working conditions,” Elechi said.
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In the early 2000s, a group of students and residents filed a lawsuit, arguing that the match process was anti-competitive, Chen recalled.
“Ultimately, Congress stepped in and created an antitrust lockout for the game,” Chen noted.
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“However, with the match system, it’s not surprising that residents unionize more often than doctors in general.”
Source : www.foxnews.com