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HealthApril 06, 2020

How far should residents live from the hospital?

By: Ogie M. Ezeoke, MD

How far should residents live from the hospital? This is one of the first questions soon-to-be physicians have after Match Day, yet it can also be one of the most complicated to answer.

As exciting as moving to a new city is, figuring out a living arrangement that’s both convenient and affordable can be tough. This is especially true for incoming residents, who are often choosing their new homes from a distance and figuring out a new transit system. They may be moving with their family and attempting to make commuting decisions that work for everyone. In addition, a resident intern always has to consider the hospital schedule and the unique challenges of intern life, which a stressful commute could exacerbate.

Ask the right questions about the program

The first step to figuring out where to live for your intern year is to ask the right questions about your program. During the interview season and in the pre-Match period, many applicants may be asking prospective programs, how far should residents live from the hospital? But it may take a few other questions to get at a real answer. Consider the following additional questions:

  • Which current residents have similar life situations (married, single, parents, differently abled, from outside the state and so on), and what are their living situations?
  • What time are interns required to be in the hospital, and how many hours each day do they typically spend in the hospital?
  • What are post-call days like? Do interns spend time on rounds presenting admitted patients, or do they go home after signing out patients?
  • What public transit options are available, and are they reliable?
  • What parking options are available for residents who drive, and is that a viable option in intern year?

For more tips on navigating your internship, check out The Washington Manual Internship Survival Guide.

Ask yourself the right questions

While every program should be able to provide guidance for interns with these questions, deciding where to live is also a personal decision. When figuring out what works best, ask yourself:

  • What is your morning routine like, and how much time do you need to get ready for work?
  • What distance do you feel is too far for commuting on an early morning or after a long day?
  • What do you value most in a new home? A lot of space, modern amenities, proximity to stores and restaurants or proximity to the hospital?
  • Do you need to consider the commuting needs of other family members?
  • Do you plan to stay in the same location for the duration of residency?
  • What are you willing or able to pay to live in your desired location?

Review the pros and cons

The answers to the questions above can help guide new interns in their search for a new home, whether they’re looking independently or searching through a broker. If you prefer a shorter commute or you have a protracted morning routine, you may want to live very close to the hospital, possibly even within walking distance. Others may feel this is too close to work and want to put some distance between the hospital and their home.

Of course, it’s also important to think about the cost of living closer to the hospital, which may be higher than living just a little further away. Finding a new home can be a huge burden on new doctors who haven’t gotten their first paychecks yet, particularly for those repaying medical school loans.

Some interns may be arriving in a new city with a family and need to be closer to schools or need more room than an apartment can provide. These new interns may want to look closely at parking options, if driving will be a necessity, as well as at traffic patterns, if travel time will be a factor.

Particularly in their intern year, most residents are in the hospital during the very early hours of the morning, and your schedule should definitely be a consideration when choosing a place to live. If you plan to commute via public transit, ensure that the hours of operation are conducive to a resident schedule. If you’ll be driving, consider how tired you’ll be both first thing in the morning and after a day in the hospital. Resident call rooms can be an invaluable alternative to attempting a drive after a long day or a 24-hour call.

Make plans early

The Match period and all it entails can be incredibly exciting. Now a great next step is figuring out how far you should live from the hospital. Find out what residents have chosen in the past, what will be required of you as a new resident and what’s important to you on this part of your path to becoming a physician. Once you have these answers, you can start looking for your new home!

Ogie M. Ezeoke, MD
Lippincott Medicine
Lippincott is a leading international medical publisher of professional health information for practitioners, faculty, residents, students, and healthcare institutions with a full suite of essential medical products, from books and journals to digital solutions.