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COVID-19, changing care needs drive starting salaries for medical specialists

por John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | July 29, 2022
Business Affairs Operating Room
Orthopedic surgeons had the highest starting salary out of all medical specialists.
Strong demand has hiked up starting salaries for different types of physicians, with orthopedic surgeons taking home the most.

The average starting salary for an orthopedic surgeon is now $565,000, up from $546,000 the year before and exclusive of signing bonuses and incentives. Other specialties have also seen increases, with urologists receiving $510,000 compared to $497,000; gastroenterologists, $474,000 instead of $453,000; and radiologists, $455,000, up from $401,000 last year, according to the 2022 Review of Physician and Advanced Practitioner Recruiting Incentives, by AMN Healthcare and its physician search division, Merritt Hawkins.

Suppressed physician demand and curtailed elective procedures during the peak of the pandemic led to backlogs in patient care, which is primarily responsible for the rise in demand now, along with patients living longer and widespread chronic medical conditions.
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“Virtually every hospital and large medical group in the country is looking to add physicians,” said Tom Florence, president of physician permanent placement for AMN Healthcare, in a statement.

Aging populations need specialists for internal organ, musculoskeletal and neurological conditions. This has shifted demand for medical specialists higher and decreased it for primary care physicians. Sixty-four percent of AMN/Merritt Hawkins’ searches were for specialists over the last year, compared to 17% for primary care doctors.

The other 19% were for nurse practitioners, physicians assistants and certified registered nurse anesthetists. These advanced practice professionals are becoming more relied on for primary care in convenient settings such as urgent care centers, retail clinics and through telemedicine.

AMN Healthcare/Merritt Hawkins searched for more NPs and PAs last year than primary care physicians, with NPs being the most searched for the second year in a row. Over one-third (34%) of searches all together were for academic medical centers, up from 20% the year before and 11%, five years ago.

“The importance of AMCs rose during the pandemic, as they were key centers of specialty care for COVID-19 patients,” said Florence. “They are expanding their footprint both as tertiary care centers and as providers of community-based care.”

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