Physician and other clinician pay has generally moved up nicely in the last few years, as demand for health services continues to grow. This means that organizations employing doctors are generally looking to hire and often must offer various incentives to lure an existing physicians away from their current setting or to attract new graduates. A survey from Merritt Hawkins examines recruiting incentives. (MH Study) The study was based on over 3100 search assignments carried out by the firm. 34% of the assignments were for hospitals, 28% for groups and 20% for academic settings. The number of searches for hospitals has declined over the last few years, while those for group and academic practices have grown. 90% of the searches were for employed positions, continuing a strong trend in that direction. 66% were for jobs located in areas with 100,000 or more population, also continuing a trend. This bodes ill for the availability of medical resources in rural areas, or those areas have ample supply and don’t need to do searches. Family practice doctors are the single most recruited specialty by number, but that number has declined over the last five years. Psychiatry in the second most recruited, but also has declined. Ob/Gyn is the third most recruited and the number of positions has grown rapidly in recent years. Overall 78% of searches were for specialists, up from 67% four years ago.
The starting salary for a family practice physician averaged $239,000, generally flat with recent years. The psychiatrist average was $273,000, up somewhat, while Ob/Gyn doctors were offered $318,000 on average, down slightly. Nurse practitioners had an average starting salary of $124,000. The Southeast tends to pay the most and the Northeast the least. In 70% of assignments a signing bonus was offered, at an average of $33,000. For ongoing bonuses, quality of care components are becoming more common, with 56% including that this year compared to 42% in 2018. Almost all assignments included a relocation allowance and payment for continuing medical education. 30% offered education loan repayment assistance. Based on what it sees in search assignments, in the aging physician workforce and in doctors tending to reduce working hours, Merritt Hawkins sees continued supply pressures which could lead to access issues.