Journal of Medicine - Even though young doctors still receive a lot of job offers in one of the worst markets in decades, nearly one-third would select another profession if they had to decide on a career all over again, according to a new study out Thursday.
The study by the large physician staffing company Merritt Hawkins comes just as the job market for doctors would appear ripe for a spike in salaries. A physician shortage looms at the same time that there may be more than 30 million paying customers coming in their doors once federal health care legislation brings broader coverage for uninsured Americans in 2014.
“Even in a stagnant economy, new doctors are being recruited like blue chip athletes,” said James Merritt, founder of Merritt Hawkins.
To be sure, 78 percent of doctors polled in their final year of training said they had at least 50 solicitations from people wanting to offer them a job, Merritt Hawkins said. And nearly half, or 47 percent, said they had 100 or more solicitations. More than 300 doctors were queried in their final year of training, Merritt Hawkins said.
But a growing number of these hot employment prospects still regret their choice of profession, citing large medical education debts, the changing economics of health care, and the health care law and how it might affect their future practices and profession.
“With declining reimbursement, increasing costs, malpractice worries and the uncertainty of health reform, the medical profession is under duress today,” Mr. Merritt said. “Many newly minted doctors are concerned about what awaits them.”
For example, Dr. Katherine Imborek, 31, just finished her family practice residence in August at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and started Monday in her first job as a full-fledged doctor at a university-run clinic in Iowa City. She said her colleagues worried about large debts and the inability to spend time with their patients.
“I feel like I am going to make a good living, and it is going to take a long time to pay off your loans, but I feel like what I am doing now is what I am supposed to do with my life and I find the field of medicine rewarding,” said Dr. Imborek, who said her annual salary would be about $150,000 a year.
But she said her colleagues were worried about seeing an influx of patients once the health care law goes into full effect.
“We need to figure something out before it reaches a tipping point,” Dr. Imborek said. “There are too many patients to be seen and not a lot of doctors to take care of them.”
Still, doctors are being financially rewarded as they move into the future.
A Merritt Hawkins survey of recruitment incentives released in June showed average salaries rising sharply for primary care physicians — family doctors, internists and pediatricians — because demand for physicians in these fields is strong.
In that survey, a family practice physician, on average, was offered a base salary or income guarantee in the 2010/2011 recruitment period of $178,000, up about 2 percent from $175,000 in the 2009/2010 recruitment period. Meanwhile, an internal medicine doctor was offered on average $205,000, up 7 percent from $191,000 in 2009/2010.
The figures in the survey include only base salaries or income guarantees and do not include production bonuses or benefits, Merritt Hawkins said.
Specialties also showed big gains, Merritt Hawkins said. Urology had the biggest jump, with an increase of 13 percent to $453,000 in 2010/11 from $400,000 in 2009/2011. Close behind in increase was invasive cardiology, which saw a 7 percent increase to $532,000 in 2010/11 from $495,000 in 2009/2010, according to the recruitment incentive survey.
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