Relocating for Residency or Fellowship: 9 Tips for a Smooth Transition

For medical students, getting matched to a residency program is a major accomplishment. Even more so for securing a fellowship. But once you’re done celebrating, it’s time to tackle your upcoming relocation—and that’s no small feat, either.

Some relocations proceed like clockwork; others, not so much. But this is something you can control. Take heed of our top relocation tips for residents and fellows—and you’ll be able to report to your program all settled, focused and ready to go.   

1. Identify Your Priorities     

According to the American Medical Association, the key to a successful relocation starts with identifying your absolute must-haves. For some residents, it’s living within their means. For others, it’s securing housing that works for their families.
Whatever the case, relocation involves many moving parts. Keeping your priorities front and center will help you achieve them.

2. Create a Budget  

Nationwide, the cost of living varies by more than 58%--that’s a lot of variation. Chances are, you factored in your destination’s cost of living when you ranked your match preferences. In fact, housing-wise, you may already know if you plan to buy or rent.

That’s a good start. Next step: calculate how much your relocation will cost, getting quotes for moving expenses, transportation, set-up costs, etc. Then, let your budget guide your decision-making.

3. Find Out if You’ll Get Relocation Assistance

Before you get too far into budgeting, find out if you’re eligible for relocation assistance through your residency or fellowship program. (In 2023, 62% of healthcare employers offered relocation benefits to physicians, so it’s likely, but not a given.)

Hopefully, this was something you considered or even negotiated during the matching process. (If you’re not that far along in the process, be sure to do so, because it can be a gamechanger.)

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4. Learn Your Relocation Benefits Inside and Out

Relocation packages come in all shapes and sizes; to make the most of yours, you’ll need to know exactly what they are.

Some healthcare employers provide residents with lump sum payments to use however they wish; others cover or reimburse actual relocation expenses, up to a pre-set max. Either way, most cover: 

  • The cost of moving household goods 
  • Transportation to the new location
  • A house-hunting trip (maybe) 
  • Short-term housing (sometimes) 
  • Some costs associated with buying or renting a home

Some healthcare employers manage relocation assistance directly, but many outsource their programs’ administration to relocation experts like UrbanBound.

5. Ask if You’ll Get Relocation Support

Relocating is complicated. In addition to financial assistance, the best packages include administrative support, in the form of live specialists or online portals (or in our case, both).

If support is available, use it fully. It can help ensure that you choose dependable suppliers, spare you some stress and even save you money. 

6. Know Your Tax Situation

Some residents are surprised to learn that relocation benefits are treated as taxable income. That’s the bad news. The good news is, 85% of healthcare employers cover the cost of these taxes, in the form of tax gross-ups.

Either way, you’ll want to know your tax liability from the get-go, avoiding unpleasant surprises at tax time.

7. Research Your New Location

Before you make any housing decisions, do some in-depth research about your new city: neighborhoods, schools, housing options, transportation—whatever’s important to you.

You will find an overwhelming amount of information online. Ideally, your healthcare employer or its relocation provider will offer you accurate, curated information and if you’re lucky, tips from prior residents who came before you.

8. Stay Organized

From residency documents…to licensing forms…to moving receipts, prepare to be swamped with paperwork and digital records, starting right about now.

Do yourself a favor: be methodical and organized from the outset, and you’ll save yourself time and stress all the way down the line. (If your relocation benefits include an online portal for managing your move, use it—it will keep you organized.)  

9. Take Care of Yourself

Starting a residency or fellowship can be very exciting and very demanding. Planning a relocation on top of it all can be overwhelming. Don’t hesitate to seek support from your friends and family. Exchange tips and experiences with peers who are relocating or have done so.

In addition, use every resource offered by your healthcare employer and/or its relocation provider. Why go it alone when there are experts ready to smooth your path, freeing you to focus on what comes next?

Wondering how we know so much about relocating residents? At UrbanBound, we specialize in relocation for the healthcare industry—from the Mayo Clinic to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Learn more here.  

Human Resources Today