Family physicians are the most in-demand specialty, followed by psychiatrists, according to a new report from physician recruiting firm Merritt Hawkins.
For the report, Merritt Hawkins reviewed 3,131 recruiting engagements for physicians and advanced practitioners, such as nurse practitioners, that occurred between April 1, 2018, and March 31, 2019. Merritt Hawkins calculated average starting salaries or guaranteed incomes, which the report states does not include bonuses or other incentives.
Demand for specialists rises
The report found family physicians remained in high demand, topping the list of most-requested recruiting assignments for the 13th straight year. The demand for primary care physicians is driven by a number of factors, including an aging population, care models that emphasize prevention, quality payments, and care coordination, the report said.
While family physicians continue to be highly sought after, the report found an increasing demand for physician specialists. For example, while 67% of recruiting assignments were for medical specialists four years ago, that number increased to 78% over the past year.
Travis Singleton, EVP of Merritt Hawkins, in a release said, "While demand remains strong for primary care physicians, specialists are increasingly needed to care for an older and sicker population. In some medical specialties, shortages are emerging that will pose a serious challenge to public health."
The highest starting salaries among specialty clinician recruits
The report also found in 2018/19 invasive cardiologists had the highest average offered salary at $648,000, while nurse practitioners had the lowest at $124,000.
Demand for employed physicians keeps climbing
According to the report, the majority of Merritt Hawkins' search assignments (90%) were for employed practice settings, while less than 10% were for independent practice. In addition, the report found the percentage of Merritt Hawkins' search assignments for a hospital setting continued to decline, dropping to 34% in 2018/19, compared with 40% the previous year and 51% four years ago.
The report authors suggested some health systems are pausing their recruitment efforts to better evaluate their current staffing needs and reduce redundancy. The report authors also noted amid the high-levels of consolidation, health systems "may be tabling some recruiting efforts as they integrate recently acquired medical groups and seek to standardize physician compensation structures" (Cheney, HealthLeaders Media, 7/8; Terry, Medscape, 7/8).