Family Docs, Internists Least Likely to Pick Specialty Again

Marcia Frellick

April 07, 2016

Family physicians and internists were the most likely among specialists to choose medicine as a career again (73% and 71%, respectively), but were the least likely to choose their own specialty (29% and 25%, respectively), according to the latest Medscape Physician Compensation Report.

Again this year, the two disciplines had nearly the lowest pay among specialists in the survey, but satisfaction with compensation ranked in the middle for both.

The highest-paid physicians again this year were orthopedists, at $443,000, and cardiologists, at $410,000. Family physicians' pay ranked third from the bottom (above endocrinologists and pediatricians), at $207,000. Internists tied with allergists for fifth from last, at $222,000.

However, when asked whether they were compensated fairly, 52% of those in family medicine and 48% of internists answered yes. The specialists most satisfied with pay were dermatologists, at 66%, and the least satisfied were urologists, at 42%.

Surprisingly, internists joined rheumatologists in having the largest increases in pay this year, at 12%. The study does not analyze the factors contributing to this, although Travis Singleton, senior vice president of the national physician search firm Merritt Hawkins, said a move to hospital medicine has shrunk supply. At the same time, he said, "over 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day, driving demand for internists, and their compensation, higher."

Gender Pay Gap Narrowing

As in all specialties, women made less than their male counterparts. In family medicine, women made $37,000 less and female internists made $29,000 less. However, the difference in pay is slimmer in primary care specialties (15% less) compared with that for all physicians (24%).

The number of women in the two disciplines was about average for all physicians, which is 31%. Internal medicine had 31% female physicians, and family medicine had 36%. Specialties with the most women were obstetrics/gynecology, at 55%, and pediatrics, at 53%. Those with the fewest women were urology, at 7%, and orthopedics, at 9%.

Pay varied widely by geographic location. Internists were paid the least in the Northeast, at $203,000, and highest in California and Hawaii, at $242,000. The lowest pay for family physicians was also in the Northeast ($189,000), but was highest in the South Central region ($218,000) and the North Central and Great Lakes regions (both $211,000).

Paperwork Demands Increasing

Just 2 years ago, in the 2014 report, 35% of employed and 26% of self-employed physicians spent at least 10 hours a week on paperwork and administrative tasks. This year, more than half devoted that much time (54% of self-employed physicians and 59% of employed).

The burden was even higher for self-employed internists and family physicians: 65% of self-employed internists and 69% of family physicians spent 10 or more hours on the tasks, and 19% of self-employed internists, 22% of employed internists, and 20% of all family physicians spent more than 20 hours on the tasks.

Overall, 19,183 physicians from 26 specialties responded to the compensation survey, including 2494 family doctors and 2302 internists.

"Medscape Internist Compensation Report 2016." Published online April 1, 2016. Full text

"Medscape Family Physician Compensation Report 2016." Published online April 1, 2016. Full text

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