Employed or Self-employed: Did You Make the Right Choice?

Leigh Page

Disclosures

October 12, 2016

In This Article

What Employed Doctors Like About Their Jobs

One key ingredient in employed physicians' job satisfaction is having a steady income. The laws of supply and demand play a role here. Hospitals have an insatiable desire to hire more physicians, which tends to boost salaries. "Demand for physicians is as intense as we have seen it in our 29-year history," wrote Travis Singleton, senior vice president of Merritt Hawkins, in a recent document on employed physicians' salaries.

The company's 2016 salary survey,[1] released in June, found that salaries rose 13% over last year for family physicians, 11% for psychiatrists, 16% for ob/gyns, 13% for dermatologists, 14% for urologists, 21% for otolaryngologists, and 12% for general surgeons.

Salaries at hospitals are particularly attractive for new physicians, Futch says. "Hospitals have been willing to pay them a little bit more than they could make in private practice," he says, adding that the aim is to pay them enough so that they will stay.

But the most prominent group in hospitals' hiring binge is older physicians. Medscape's newly released survey[2] of employed physicians showed that whereas physicians aged 29-39 years make up 23% of the employed population, the 40- to 54-year age group makes up 41% and the 55-plus age group makes up 37% of the employed population.

Newly employed older physicians are refugees from private practice—and as such, they are more conflicted about their new role, says Frank Proscia, MD, president of the Doctors Council, a union for employed physicians and dentists based in New York.

They like the predictable income that comes with being employed, but "they remember the days of true autonomy they had as self-employed physicians," Proscia says.

It's not just about money. Although financial security was the most common reason for seeking employment (cited by 36% in the Medscape survey), 26% cited a better work/life balance and 15% cited fewer administrative responsibilities. The latter statistic reflects employed physicians' distaste for running a practice.

All in all, employed physicians are attracted by the "strength in numbers" aspect of a large institution, Futch says. "When you're part of a large organization, you know you'll be getting patients." Payers can't afford to shut large organizations out of their networks.

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