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What physicians should know about on-call pay

Article

For many primary care physicians, on-call pay will likely not be a major part of contract negotiations says Tommy Bohannon, divisional vice president for Merritt Hawkins, but for specialists, it could be.

 

For many primary care physicians, on-call pay will likely not be a major part of contract negotiations says Tommy Bohannon, divisional vice president for Merritt Hawkins, but for specialists, it could be.

“For the most part, [primary care physicians] are on call for their practice. It’s a shared responsibility, and that’s how it goes,” says Bohannon. “Where you get paid extra for taking a call is if you’re covering the emergency room. It comes up a lot more with psychiatrists, surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other specialists.”

For physicians who do receive on-call pay, the amount varies widely across specialties. In the MGMA’s 2013 “Medical Directorship and On-Call Compensation Survey,” primary care physicians reported a median rate of $100 to $150 per day, whereas surgeons reported a median rate of $1,000 per day.

Bohannon says a frequent question he receives from physicians is how much extra they will get paid if they cover an on-call shift out of necessity. For example, if the only on-call physician becomes ill, how much will a physician get paid to fill-in?

“It depends on what the market will bear,” he says. “We don’t typically see much of an offset if someone picks up an extra day. But during the contract negotiation, it’s about getting the clarification.”

But Bohannon says the trend of physicians receiving additional on-call pay from hospitals is beginning to decline.

“It seems like that it becomes less of a topic as you have more consolidation and more doctors employed by the hospitals anyway,” Bohannon says. “That is becoming much more prevalent. It’s become more, ‘We’re paying you to be a surgeon, and being on-call is part of the job.’”

 

 

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Jennifer N. Lee, MD, FAAFP
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