WASHINGTON, DC (7News) — Three physicians-in-training at George Washington University Hospital met 7News outside the facility to share the realities of life as a medical resident.
"I would say my average hours worked is about 60 to 80 a week. It pretty much equals two full-time jobs," Dr. Maryssa Miller told 7News.
"I was not expecting things that were more not usually in the job description. Calling shelters and also to be calling other hospitals because our patient couldn't be transferred because we were having all of these problems boarding," Dr. Jennifer Luk said.
The doctors complain of heavy demands and a salary of $64,000 a year.
Those are some of the issues that have motivated more than 450 residents employed by George Washington University to consider forming a union.
Voting takes place on April 26 and 27.
"We definitely are seeing it across the country," said Dr. Janis Orlowski former Chief Health Care Officer of the Association of American Medical Colleges.
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She acknowledged an increase in residents forming unions.
The Committee of Interns and Residents, which is a local of the Service Employees Internation Union and the largest union representing residents in the U.S., says in 2019 it represented over 17,000 residents and fellows and in 2023 now represents over 24,000.
Joining a union can be risky, potentially jeopardizing the relationship between residents and the doctors who train them.
Orlowski also emphasized the need for unions to keep issues like pay and patient care separate.
"There's an appropriate place for a union, for residents to work in and then there's an area which they should not be involved in," she said.
7News reached out to the residents' employer, the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, for a response to the push to unionize.
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GW provided a statement that reads: "The university encourages all those eligible to vote to do so. Regardless of the outcome, GW remains committed to supporting and training residents and fellows as they prepare for the independent practice of medicine."
Resident Dr. Nathasha Mathur hopes unionizing will lead to more time with the people she cares for.
"When we come together as a unified group of residents, we can advocate for ourselves, but we can also advocate for our patients," Mather said.
If the action to unionize is approved, the medical residents say the top issues they'll push for are securing crucial workplace safety protections, better pay and benefits, as well as improved patient care conditions.
The union they're affiliating with, CIR/SEIU, also represents residents and fellows at St. Elizabeth's Hospital, Howard University Hospital, and Children's National.