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High Demand and Rising Salaries Await Young Physicians


Physicians just starting their careers can expect to cash in on a trend of rising incomes for physicians of all specialties.

“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”

—Thomas Aquinas

I’m told by his mother that my nephew, Andrew L. Kelly, MD, could have nearly any physician job he wanted, anywhere in the country, and for a terrific salary. Her mailbox has been stuffed with recruiting offers for him.

The impressive 35-year-old Dr. Kelly is about to complete a joint intern-resident physician program in Family Medicine. He’s been training for a career and medicine in the nation’s Bible belt, Tulsa, OK.

Through the In His Image Family Medicine Residency program, my nephew is looking to “serve God through medicine.” I wish him every success. We need more of his kind in medicine—and elsewhere. For sure, his physician-grandfather would be very proud of him. In so many ways, Andy has the power to heal.

I also hope that Andy remembers that “one who trusts in the Lord will be enriched.” Because it’s a good time to be young doctor—according to the 2016 Review of Physician and Advanced Practitioner Recruiting Incentives report.

The report, now in its 23rd year, is an overview of the salaries, bonuses, and other incentives that are customarily used to recruit physicians (PAs and NPs are also in the report).

Prepared by Merritt Hawkins, the nation’s top physician search firm, the comprehensive study offers encouraging news for the medical profession—“starting salaries for both primary care and specialist physicians spiked in the last 12 months, reflecting a rising demand for physicians and a growing physician shortage.”

The annual income offered to the top recruited specialties were quite handsome in many respects. There are: Family Medicine, $225,000; Internal medicine, $237,000; Psychiatry, $250,000; Hospitalist, $249,000; OB/GYN, $321,000; Neurology, $285,000; Orthopedic surgery, $521,000; Urgent care, $221,000; Pediatrics, $224,000; Emergency Medicine, $304,000; and Dermatology, $444,000.

Here are some other report highlights:

• Strong demand for all physicians is pushing up average starting salaries. There were year-over-year payday increases for nearly all specialties, including Internal Medicine (up 14.5%), Family Medicine (13.6%), Psychiatry (10.6%), and Hospitalist (7.3%).

• Nearly all of the entities looking to hire doctors offered a signing bonus with a $26,889 average.

• More than two-thirds (77%) offered a relocation allowance with a $10,226 average.

• More than 95% of all searchers offered to pay the doctor’s health, disability, and malpractice insurance, and offered a retirement plan. Only about 25% offered education loan forgiveness.

• As to average doctor salary by region, the best place for all medical specialties is the nation’s Southwest; the Northwest paid the lowest average for all doctors.

• For the 10th consecutive year, family physicians topped the list of most requested recruiting assignments—underscoring the key role primary care physicians will play in an evolving healthcare system.

• Urgent care physicians moved to ninth on the list, up from 20th last year—highlighting growing consumer demand for “convenient care” services.

• For the first time ever, psychiatrists were second on the list for the most requested recruiting assignments—a clear reflection of the greater focus on mental health challenges in the nation.

• The use of value/quality-based payment incentives for physicians rose for the year. Nearly one-third of production bonuses featured a value/quality-based component, up from 23% the previous year.

• Solo practice, long in decline, appears to be making a comeback. About 5% of recruiting assignments in 2016 were for solo practice settings, up from 4% the previous year, and up from less than 1% the year before.

• Medical school applicants and enrollees reached an all-time high last year, with 20,630 allopathic acceptances.

• The total combined economic output of US patient care physicians is $1.6 trillion, and each physician generates a per capita economic output of $2.2 million while supporting approximately 14 jobs.

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