Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the job market for family physicians was strong. "The challenge was not finding a job, but selecting the right one from among a plethora of choices," write Travis Singleton and Phillip Miller in the latest issue of FPM, where they share recent data from physician recruitment firm Merrit Hawkins.
Beginning in March 2020, the job market changed. And though the long-term outlook remains promising, here are four employment trends family physicians are likely to experience in the short-term:
1. A slower pace of physician hiring. With many practices reeling from decreased patient volumes and increased financial pressures due to COVID-19, physician hiring has slowed. Merritt Hawkins reports that it conducted just 448 searches in 2020, a decrease of almost 40% from 2015. The decrease in hiring means physicians may need to act quickly on job offers instead of "comparison shopping" over many months.
2. Stalled salaries. Starting salary offers for family physicians averaged $241,000 in 2018, per Merritt Hawkins, and have remained flat at around $240,000 for the last two years. Salary growth will depend largely on how quickly the economy recovers and how quickly patient confidence in seeking health care is restored.
3. Mostly volume-based production bonuses. Family physicians' employment contracts typically feature a base salary that can be supplemented through a production bonus. Relative value units continue to be the primary way employers measure physician productivity, per Merritt Hawkins. Although quality is becoming a more common factor in physician compensation formulas, it still makes up a relatively small percentage of total compensation — 11% on average.
4. Modest benefits. The majority of employers continue to offer signing bonuses, but the amount has decreased slightly from the previous year. For family physicians, signing bonuses varied widely but averaged $25,100. Incentives such as paid relocation (averaging $10,553), paid continuing medical education (averaging $4,166), health insurance, and malpractice insurance remain standard. However, less than a quarter of employers now offer medical education loan repayment.
Read the full article in FPM: "Employment and Contract Considerations for Family Physicians in the Era of COVID-19."
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