Recently, there have been more reports suggesting that physician income has taken a hit, especially in proportion to the swelling costs of undergraduate and medical school education. With such a wide variety of physician specialties, it is not always easy to objectively validate whether and how much physician salaries are sinking, stagnating or climbing with respect to considerations such as inflation and income trends of other professionals.
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Michelle Mudge Riley, DO, of Physicians Helping Physicians, has been a professional physician career coach for over 10 years and has worked with hundreds of physicians who are in the process of leaving clinical practice.
In her work, Mudge Riley has been getting feedback from physicians about their reimbursements, and she has observed a downward trend, especially for specialties such as radiology that have traditionally been well-paying. While the high-paying specialties have not fared well, primary care physicians don’t seem to be gaining ground either.
“As far as primary care salaries go, I don't hear about any increase in salary for my pediatricians or OB's,” she said.
As many Americans know, taking on extra work is one of the most common ways to ease income strains.
“I work with an orthopedic surgeon who says he needs to supplement his clinical income with non-clinical revenue sources because he is in his mid 50s and can’t operate as much anymore. I work with an electrophysiology cardiologist who is in the same situation. Interestingly, the orthopedic surgeon is a male and the cardiologist is a female and they are in different areas of the country,” she says.
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Mudge Riley also notes that changing compensation structures have hurt, not helped, the bottom line for most doctors.