New Physician Salary 2024 Report Highlights Compensation, Overwork and Shortage

New Physician Salary 2024 Report Highlights Compensation, Overwork and Shortage

Overwork remains a critical issue affecting physician well-being and career satisfaction despite rising salaries.

The physician salary landscape is undergoing significant changes, driven by rising compensation, overwork and a growing shortage of healthcare professionals. Understanding these dynamics is crucial for healthcare institutions, policymakers and physicians themselves as they navigate the evolving healthcare environment.

Doximity, Inc., a digital platform for US medical professionals, recently published its 2024 Physician Compensation Report. The report highlights the gender pay gap for physicians, satisfaction with compensation and willingness to accept lower pay for more autonomy or work-life balance. Let’s delve into the report to learn more about the changing physician salary landscape.

Rising Compensation Trends

In recent years, the average physician salary has seen notable increases. According to Doximity’s report, after a period of stagnation and decline, the average physician salary increased nearly six percent in 2023, rebounding from a 2.4 percent decline in 2022​​. Despite this growth, inflationary pressures have impacted physicians’ real income, with Medicare physician payment rates dropping 26 percent when adjusted for inflation since 2001​​.

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Top Physician Salary by Specialty

Compensation varies widely across different medical specialties. Surgical and procedural specialties generally offer the highest physician salaries. According to the report, neurosurgery tops the list with an average annual compensation of $763,908, followed by thoracic surgery at $720,634 and orthopedic surgery at $654,815​​. These high salaries reflect the specialized skills and high demand associated with these fields.

Conversely, pediatric and primary care specialties tend to offer lower compensation. For instance, pediatric endocrinology has one of the lowest average annual compensations at $217,875, followed by pediatric nephrology at $227,450​​. These differences highlight the income disparities faced by physicians in essential but lower-paying specialties.

Top Physician Salary by City

Geographical location also plays a significant role in determining physician salaries. Metropolitan areas with high living costs tend to offer higher salaries to compensate for the increased expenses. The report identifies San Jose, California as the metro area with the highest average physician compensation at $474,977, followed by Los Angeles, California at $448,121 and St. Louis, Missouri at $442,576​​. These figures show the variation in compensation linked to regional economic conditions.

The Impact of Overwork and Physician Burnout

Despite rising salaries, overwork remains a critical issue affecting physician well-being and career satisfaction. The report indicates that 81 percent of physicians feel overworked, with 59 percent considering an employment change due to their workload​​. This trend is particularly concerning among younger and early-career physicians, who report the highest rates of overwork. For instance, 89 percent of physicians under age 30 feel overworked, leading many to contemplate early retirement or career changes​​.

Burnout is exacerbated by high administrative burdens, with physicians spending nearly two hours on electronic health records (EHR) and desk work for every hour of patient care​​. Reducing administrative tasks and increasing flexible work arrangements are crucial to mitigate burnout. According to the report, 75 percent of physicians believe that reducing administrative burdens would significantly improve their work-life balance​​.

Physician Shortage Crisis

The physician shortage is another pressing issue, with the US projected to face a shortage of up to 86,000 physicians by 2036​​. This shortage impacts both patient care and physician well-being. The majority of physicians surveyed reported moderate to severe impacts on their practice due to the shortage, including increased workloads, diminished job satisfaction and deteriorating workplace culture​​.

Addressing the physician shortage requires systemic changes. Key strategies include increasing funding for medical education, implementing loan forgiveness programs to attract physicians to underserved areas and leveraging technology to streamline administrative tasks​​. Additionally, expanding virtual care options can help improve access to healthcare services and alleviate some of the pressures on the current workforce.

The dynamics of physician salary, overwork and shortage present significant challenges and opportunities for the healthcare industry. While rising physician salaries reflect a positive trend, the persistent issues of overwork and shortage require urgent attention. By adopting comprehensive strategies to support physicians and streamline administrative processes, the healthcare sector can enhance both physician well-being and patient care outcomes.

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