Money for nothing? The net costs of medical training

Pedro Pita Barros, Sara R. Machado

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


One of the stages of medical training is the residency programme. Hosting institutions often claim compensation for the training provided. How much should this compensation be? According to our results, given the benefits arising from having residents among the house staff, no transfer (either tuition fee or subsidy) should be set to compensate the hosting institution for providing medical training. This paper quantifies the net costs of medical training, defined as the training costs over and above the wage paid. We jointly consider two effects. On the one hand, residents take extra time and resources from both the hosting institution and the supervisor. On the other hand, residents can be regarded as a less expensive substitute to nurses and/or graduate physicians, in the production of health care, both in primary care centres and hospitals. The net effect can be either positive or negative. We use the fact that residents, in Portugal, are centrally allocated to National Health Service hospitals to treat them as a fixed exogenous production factor. The data used comes from Portuguese hospitals and primary care centres. Cost function estimates point to a small negative marginal impact of residents on hospitals' (-0.02%) and primary care centres' (-0.9%) costs. Nonetheless, there is a positive relation between size and cost to the very large hospitals and primary care centres. Our approach to estimation of residents' costs controls for other teaching activities hospitals might have (namely undergraduate Medical Schools). Overall, the net costs of medical training appear to be quite small.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)234-255
JournalHealth Care Management Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010


  • Costs
  • Medical training


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