Some Nurses Making More than Primary Docs

One of the reasons often given for the nation’s shortage of primary care doctors is lower salaries, which lead medical school graduates to choose higher-paying specialties like cardiology and orthopedics. A recent report from the healthcare staffing firm Merritt Hawkins highlights one of the more unusual aspects of the primary-care income squeeze. According to the report, certified nurse anesthetists recruited by the firm had an average salary of $185,000, higher than family practice physicians, who averaged $172,000, and internists, who averaged $176,000.

One of the reasons often given for the nation’s shortage of primary care doctors is lower salaries, which lead medical school graduates to choose higher-paying specialties like cardiology and orthopedics. A recent report from the healthcare staffing firm Merritt Hawkins highlights one of the more unusual aspects of the primary-care income squeeze. According to the report, certified nurse anesthetists recruited by the firm had an average salary of $185,000, higher than family practice physicians, who averaged $172,000, and internists, who averaged $176,000.

In addition to an undergraduate nursing degree and experience as registered nurses, nurse anesthetists must complete 2 or 3 years of postgraduate training. Once they receive their postgraduate degree, they can perform many, but not all, of the procedures normally handled by an anesthesiologist. According to a spokesperson for Merritt Hawkins, a nurse anesthetist’s high salary can be justified by the increased income for a hospital or medical practice that he/she can help generate, especially in rural areas where an anesthesiologist may not be available.

The survey puts orthopedic surgeons and radiologists at the top of the salary list, with cardiologists not far behind. If nurse anesthetists were included on the list, they would not only earn more than family practitioners and internists, they would also have a higher average salary than pediatricians and be almost on a par with psychiatrists.

See also a take from our sister site, MDNG.