- Physician compensation rose faster in 2021 compared with last year, a reflection of the tightening labor market as providers grapple with widespread burnout, according to Doximity's annual physician compensation report out Thursday.
- More than 73% of physicians reported feeling overworked amid the pandemic and 50% said they are considering an employment change because of it, with female physicians more likely to consider early retirement than their male counterparts, the report found.
- The report also analyzes the rate of retirement among physicians, and found an extra 1% left their practice than were expected. "There's a lot of physicians continuing to think about that as the lever for managing their burnout," Natalia Birgisson, Doximity's director of strategy, said.
The COVID-19 pandemic is still raging on in the U.S. as the healthcare workforce, especially those on the front lines, deal with widespread occupational burnout.
A number of other factors could be contributing to rising compensation rates for physicians of 3.8% from 2020 to 2021, including a catch-up from last year's relatively flat rate, according to Doximity's report. The rise from 2019 to 2020 was 1.5%
Inflation may also be to blame, and the increase did not outpace the rate of inflation, meaning physicians actually experienced a decline in real income over the year when accounting for that, according to the report.
Physician pay grew across all practice settings during the period, though urgent care settings saw the highest growth while academic and pharmaceutical settings saw the smallest, the fifth annual report including data from more than 46,000 full-time U.S. physicians found.
Another notable point this year was the retirement trend.
Doximity identified a spike in retirements during the first few months of the pandemic that never fully recovered, "so the result is more than 1% of the entire physician workforce appears to have retired earlier than expected based on trends prior to the pandemic," Birgisson said.
The report also tracks the wage gap between male and female physicians, and the wage gap held steady from 2020 to 2021 at 28%, representing a nearly $122,000 difference in yearly compensation.
That gap has increased from 26.5% in 2017 to 28% this year, and there are still no medical specialties in which women earn the same or more than men.
Among nurse practitioners and physician assistants however, gender pay gaps have been steadily declining over the past five years with male NPs making 11% more than women, and male PAs making 10% more than women.
The report also asked physicians about their clinical workload during the pandemic and if that was impacting their career plans. Overall, half of respondents said they are overworked and therefore considering changing employers or careers, or retiring.
Those sentiments are greater among female physicians, with 25% reporting considering early retirement due to pandemic strains and overwork, compared to 20% of men.
Male physicians were also far more likely to report "I'm not overworked," the report found.