FPs Remain High in Demand

Family Physicians Once Again Top List for Recruitment Requests in 2010-11

August 17, 2011 05:05 pm News Staff

The demand for family physicians continues to outstrip demand for other physician specialties and subspecialties, making family physicians the most sought-after physician group in terms of recruitment and retention. That's according to a recent survey(www.merritthawkins.com) from Merritt Hawkins, a national physician search firm, which tracked more than 2,660 physician recruiting assignments from April 1, 2010, through March 31, 2011.

[Graph-10 Most-Requested Physician Services by Specialty]

This is the fifth consecutive year that family medicine has topped Merritt Hawkins' list for recruitment searches. The company received 532 requests for family physician placements, a 42 percent increase from 2009-10. Internal medicine ranked second, with 295 requested searches, and pediatrics broke into the top 10 most-requested physician assignments for the first time this year, with 64 requests.

Story Highlights

  • For the fifth straight year, family physicians were the most sought-after physician group, according to a recruitment and retention survey conducted by physician search firm Merritt Hawkins.
  • The survey found that the average salary for family physicians in 2010-11 was $178,000 compared with $205,000 for internal medicine physicians and $183,000 for pediatricians.
  • Fifty-six percent of Merritt Hawkins physician search assignments in 2010-11 featured hospital employment of the physician, an increase of 5 percent from the previous year.

"Primary care physicians have become a particular focus of recruiting efforts for several reasons," says the survey. In particular, the shortage of medical students willing to go into primary care is a factor. As a result, many family medicine residency programs are having difficulty filling their available residency slots. "This contraction in supply coincides with the renewed focus that hospitals and medical groups are putting on primary care after several years of neglect in the early part of this decade," the survey notes.

Practice style and physician demographics are additional factors inhibiting supply, says the study. Many physicians are looking for part-time practice work or more structured hours that fit better with their personal lifestyles. For example, notes the study, "Female physicians, who typically work fewer hours than male doctors, are concentrated in primary care, eroding the number of primary care full-time equivalents."

In addition, population growth in the United States is creating a greater demand for primary care physicians, as is the emphasis on providing better value for dollars spent, which is a priority of health care reform efforts.

The survey also looked at average salaries for family physicians and other specialties and subspecialties. It found that the average salary for family physicians in 2010-11 was $178,000 compared with $205,000 for internal medicine physicians and $183,000 for pediatricians. Family physicians who provide obstetric service as part of their practices had an average salary of $197,000.

By comparison, orthopedic surgeons earned an average salary of $521,000 in 2010-11, urologists earned $453,000, and dermatologists earned $331,000, according to the survey.

The survey also made these key findings:

  • fifty-six percent of Merritt Hawkins physician search assignments in 2010-11 were for hospital-employed physicians, a 5 percent increase from the previous year and up 33 percent from 2005-06;
  • most search assignments (74 percent) feature salary with a production bonus, and the majority of bonuses continue to be based on relative value units rather than on quality or cost-based compensation metrics;
  • signing bonuses, relocation and continuing medical education allowances remain standard in most physician recruitment incentive packages;
  • housing allowances are a new recruiting incentive some facilities are offering to help physicians having difficulties relocating because of the volatile real estate market; and
  • nearly half (44 percent) of search assignments in 2010-11 took place in communities of 100,000 or more, while only 22 percent of assignments took place in communities of 25,000 or less.