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How do your staff salaries stack up?

Article

Some staffers are worth their weight in gold. Here's what one survey says they're worth in dollars and cents.

 

How do your staff salaries stack up?

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Choose article section...Staff salaries by region, 2002 What office managers earn, by specialty, 2002

Some staffers are worth their weight in gold. Here's what one survey says they're worth in dollars and cents.

By Gail Garfinkel Weiss
Senior Editor

If you want to attract and retain quality employees, you'd better pay them the going rate for your area.

To help you do that, we turned to the Professional Association of Health Care Office Management (PAHCOM) for the results of its 2002 staff salary and benefits surveys. One report, based on 615 responses from PAHCOM members across the country, lists average salaries for seven clinical and 13 clerical positions. A second report, based on 870 responses, focuses on office manager salaries and benefits. You'll find detailed salary information in the tables that follow, but here are some highlights on rates of increase and fringe benefits.

Office managers' compensation showed a moderate but steady increase, says Roger Landers, PAHCOM's business manager and the editor of its newsletter, Medical Office Management. Pay for office managers increased 2.7 percent—from an average $49,374 in 2001 to $50,687 in 2002. In general, pay and pay hikes were highest in the Northeast, where average salaries rose 5.6 percent, to $54,333. Pay was up 3.3 percent in the West (to $49,559) and 1.1 percent in the Midwest (to $51,397). Those in the Southeast posted the smallest gain, only 0.5 percent (to $47,460).

Specialists such as cardiologists and orthopedists offered more generous salary and benefits packages to their office managers—a total of $73,437 for the former and $71,117 for the latter. Office managers for family physicians—with an average $42,870 in salary and $9,556 in benefits—were at the low end of the scale.

Most clinical and clerical staffers didn't fare as well. Salaries increased slightly or not at all from 2001 to 2002, and some positions lost ground. Radiology technicians made out best: Their average salary jumped 8.8 percent, from $34,801 in 2001 to $37,862 in 2002. But the average pay for RNs declined, from $38,655 to $38,189. PAHCOM's survey also showed slight dips in average pay for bookkeepers, secretaries, and data entry clerks.

The PAHCOM figures indicate that more medical practices are consolidating job titles in order to save on salaries, says Landers. However, despite declining reimbursements, rising overhead, and higher malpractice premiums, there's no evidence of wholesale pay cuts in medical offices, he says.

Landers would like to see higher salaries for certain positions, especially receptionists, who earned an average of just $22,408 in 2002. "It's such a stressful job and has a high burnout rate," he says, "but it's nonetheless one of the lowest-paying positions. The doctors who have good receptionists are lucky and should reward these employees accordingly."

Salaries tell only half the compensation story, though. Most potential employees are also looking for medical insurance and paid holidays, and it certainly doesn't hurt to offer a pension plan, an annual bonus, and other perks.

In its 2002 salary and benefits report for clinical and clerical staff, PAHCOM found that:

• Medical office employees get an average of seven paid holidays, 13 vacation days, and six sick days a year. Office managers do a bit better on the last two measures: They average 16 paid vacation days and eight sick days a year.

• Nine out of 10 practices provide medical insurance for their employees, but only one in five offers medical benefits for family members.

• Three out of four practices offer pension plans. The most popular of these is a 401(k) (48 percent), followed by profit sharing (19 percent), simple IRA (10 percent), SEP IRA (7 percent), percentage of salary (5 percent), and defined benefit plans (2 percent).

• Almost two-thirds (64 percent) of practices give employees annual bonuses. Some bonuses (29 percent) are a set amount, such as two weeks' salary; some (21 percent) are performance-based. Other determining factors include length of employment (19 percent), physician discretion (14 percent), and the practice's profits (14 percent).

• Just over half (52 percent) of practices provide life insurance benefits for employees; 45 percent pay employee tuition; and 40 percent offer disability insurance.

By pegging your salary schedule and benefits package to competitive rates, you send the message that you value staff and are willing to pay what the job is worth, says Judy Capko, a consultant with The Sage Group in Newbury Park, CA. You might need to sweeten a salary offer, though, if you practice in an area where the competition for skilled medical staff is keen or there's a scarcity of qualified candidates.

It's also a good idea to let employees know why there's a range in salaries for the same job title. "Jobs with identical titles are not necessarily equal," says Capko. "We need to educate staffers and applicants that pay is based on a formula that recognizes the level of responsibility, as well as the skills and experience required to perform the job."

 

Staff salaries by region, 2002

Position
National average
Northeast
Southeast
Midwest
West
Office manager
$50,687
$54,333
$47,460
$51,397
$49,559
Nurse supervisor
40,972
43,116
40,742
42,051
37,979
RN
38,189
38,714
38,376
35,983
39,682
Radiology tech
37,862
44,567
35,927
31,658
39,297
Lab tech
32,989
38,490
31,651
35,619
26,196
LPN
29,245
32,157
27,495
26,976
30,352
CMA
24,878
25,345
25,176
24,078
24,912
MA
23,315
24,213
22,207
22,941
23,900
Financial supervisor
41,030
43,616
39,711
41,768
39,024
Assistant office manager
34,665
34,548
32,324
37,018
34,770
Collections clerk
27,675
32,255
24,956
25,652
27,836
Billing clerk
26,752
27,634
25,636
26,910
26,830
Bookkeeper
26,371
23,067
28,386
26,776
27,255
Secretary
25,807
27,108
24,311
24,071
27,739
Insurance clerk
25,414
27,438
24,556
25,705
23,956
Transcriptionist
25,242
28,360
25,679
23,862
23,067
Appointment secretary/receptionist
23,851
28,431
21,768
21,566
23,639
Data entry clerk
23,488
26,374
20,743
21,682
25,153
Cashier
22,920
23,980
22,214
20,705
24,783
Receptionist
22,408
23,104
21,615
22,030
22,883
Filing clerk
18,431
17,647
18,004
17,982
20,091

 

What office managers earn, by specialty, 2002

 
Average salary
Average benefits
Total
Cardiology
$60,384
$13,053
$73,437
Family practice
42,870
9,556
52,426
General surgery
48,749
11,001
59,750
Internal medicine
45,871
9,793
55,664
Ob/gyn
54,088
12,164
66,252
Orthopedics
57,895
13,222
71,117
Pediatrics
50,039
8,253
58,292

 

 

 

Gail Weiss. How do your staff salaries stack up?. Medical Economics 2003;7:32.

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