Some Nurses Paid More Than Family Physicians

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Nurses trained in administering anesthesia are offered higher salaries on average than are family physicians, according to a new report from Merritt, Hawkins & Associates, the nation’s largest physician recruiting firm.

The firm’s 2008 Review of Physician and CRNA Recruiting Incentives indicates that the average salary offered to recruit family physicians is $172,000. By comparison, the average salary offered to recruit nurses trained in administering anesthesia (who are known as CRNAs) is $185,000.

Salaries for family physicians also lag behind those offered to other types of doctors. The average salary offered to orthopedic surgeons in 2008 was $439,000, while the average salary offered to radiologists was $401,000, according to Merritt, Hawkins’ report.

“Demand for family physicians is through the roof and there are not enough of them to go around,” notes Mark Smith, President of Merritt, Hawkins & Associates. “The way doctors are paid, however, tends to favor those who do surgical procedures rather than family physicians and other primary care doctors whose role is largely consultative.”

Merritt, Hawkins’ 2008 report reviews the 3,146 physician search assignments the firm conducted nationwide from April 1, 2007 to March 31, 2008 and tracks financial and other incentives used to recruit physicians. The report indicates that Merritt, Hawkins conducted 492 search assignments for family physicians during the 12 month review period, up 62 percent from the previous year. The firm receives more requests from its clients for family physicians than for any other type of doctor, Smith observes. General internists, are second on the list, followed by hospitalists, who specialize in providing care to hospital inpatients. A population that is both growing and aging is driving demand for family physicians and other primary care doctors, according to Smith, but the supply of such doctors is limited.

“Most American medical students simply are not interested in becoming family physicians,” Smith says. “The majority of medical students who elect to train as family physicians today went to medical schools overseas.”

The survey shows that a growing number of hospitals are employing physicians. Of the 3,146 physician search assignments reviewed in Merritt, Hawkins’ report, 45 percent featured hospital employment, up from 19 percent three years ago. Traditionally, hospitals have recruited physicians on behalf of independent medical groups or have established physicians in solo practices, but that is changing, Smith observes.

“Many physicians today are overwhelmed by the pressures of running a private practice,” Smith says. “As employees, they can turn the business side or their practice over to the hospital and focus on providing patient care.”

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