Pediatricians Among Lowest-Paid Specialties Since 2013

Nicola M. Parry, DVM

April 18, 2018

Pediatricians are among the lowest-paid physician specialties, according to data from the latest Medscape Compensation report.

Pediatricians responding to the survey reported an average overall compensation of $212,000, ranking second lowest in the group. In fact, pediatricians have remained among the lowest-paid physician specialties since 2013.

In comparison, the highest-paid specialties this year, as in 2017, were plastic surgeons, orthopedists, and cardiologists. Whereas orthopedists topped the list in 2017, plastic surgeons were the top earners this year, at $501,000.

Pediatricians reported a 5% rise in income from 2017, whereas they had a 1% drop in compensation on last year's report.

Psychiatrists topped this year's pay increase list, reporting a 16% pay rise. The main contributing factor here was cited as psychiatrist supply failing to keep pace with an unprecedented demand for mental health services.

Only 53% of pediatrician respondents reported feeling fairly compensated for their work, placing them among a group of physician specialties that reported lower-than-average compensation. Among those pediatricians who were not satisfied, 52% felt they deserved an 11% to 25% pay increase, whereas 31% believed an increase of 26% to 50% to be in order.

Ethnic, Gender Disparities Persist

The 2018 data also highlight persistent disparities in gender and race.

Among pediatricians, women typically outnumbered men across all ethnicities. For example, women represented 61% of all white and Asian pediatricians, as well as 55% of Hispanic/Latino pediatricians. This gap was even wider among black pediatricians, of whom 91% were women.

Stubborn gender and racial pay gaps also linger among physicians. Among specialist physicians in general, men made about 36% more than their female counterparts ($358,000 vs $263,000). As in previous years, this pay gap persisted among pediatricians ($240,000 vs $193,000), even though women outnumber men in this specialty.

Furthermore, all non-white physicians earned less than their white counterparts, according to a report overview, and black physicians experienced the greatest disparity. White physicians reported the highest average annual compensation, at $308,000; black physicians reported just $258,000.

Since the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 was launched, numerous changes in the Merit-based Incentive Payment System have occurred. This has caused considerable confusion and frustration for physicians. Indeed, pediatricians reported low participation (26%) in the Merit-based Incentive Payment System relative to all physicians surveyed, ranking third from bottom on the list.

Compared with other specialties, pediatricians also reported a low participation rate (7%) in Alternative Payment Models.

When asked how many hours per week they spend seeing patients, 67% of pediatricians indicated 30 to 45 hours and 22% indicated more than 45 hours.

Nevertheless, seeing patients is just a portion of physicians' work weeks, and data have once again highlighted that bureaucratic tasks weigh heavily on physicians and remain the primary reason for burnout.

According to the report, 67% of pediatricians spend 10 hours or more per week on paperwork and administration. This percentage has risen from 54% in 2017.

When asked about the most challenging part of their job, 22% of pediatricians selected "having so many rules and regulations," which was the most common response; 21% chose "having to work long hours," and 18% chose "dealing with difficult patients."

Conversely, when pediatricians were asked about the most rewarding part of their job, 36% cited "gratitude/relationships with from patients," and 30% selected "knowing that I'm making the world a better place."

Despite all the challenges that pediatricians face, when physicians were asked whether they would choose medicine again as a career, 79% of pediatricians answered yes to the question. In contrast, allergists and immunologists were lowest, with only 62% saying they would choose medicine again.

However, although they would still choose medicine, pediatricians were less likely than those in other specialties to choose the same specialty again: Only 80% said they would still select pediatrics, ranking them in the lower half of physicians who would pick the same specialty again.

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