Cardiology still in demand but commands less pay

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 - Money in the Pocket

Cardiology once again made the top 20 list of most requested specialties in a review of physician recruitment searches, but incomes slid along with the number of searches over the 12-month period.

Merritt Hawkins marked its 21st year of conducting an annual survey of recruiting incentives for physicians and advanced practitioners. It based its 2014 review on 3,158 search assignments conducted by the company and its sister staffing firm, Kendal & Davis and Staff Care, between April 2013 and March 2014. Data tracked included starting salaries, incentives and annual compensation, with a breakdown by specialty.

Cardiology tied with otolaryngology for 15th place on the top 20 list, maintaining the position it held last year. But the number of searches for cardiology declined to 32 in 2013-14 from 38 in 2012-13. Cardiology has been on a downward trajectory since 2011-12, when it showed 46 searches.

Cardiology is not alone in that trend. Among the top 20, emergency medicine, obstetrics/gynecology, general surgery and pulmonology all registered a three-year slip.

Family medicine, hospitalists, nurse practitioners, pediatrics, physician assistants and neurology have been on a three-year roll. Searches for nurse practitioners jumped from 23 in 2011-12 to 128 in 2013-14. Physician assistant searches climbed from 22 to 61 in that period.  

Family medicine led the pack in 2013-14, at 714 searches.

“[D]emand for particular specialists cannot be measured only by number of search assignments requested, since more populous specialties such as family medicine and general internal medicine can be expected to generate more requests than less populous specialties,” the report’s authors conceded. Hospitalists led in that context, according to their analysis.

Noninvasive cardiology income averaged $442,000 in 2014-13, down from $447,000 for the previous year. Invasive cardiology also took a hit, dropping to $454,000 in 2014-13 from $461,000 in 2012-13. The study defined income as base salary or guaranteed income; it did not include production bonuses or benefits.

Still, cardiology was among the highest paying specialties in 2013-14. Urology, with an 18.8 percent increase from the previous year, saw the biggest pay bump among the top 20; it averaged $504,000. Gastroenterology came in at $454,000 and orthopedic surgery at $488,000.

By comparison, the average income for family medicine was $199,000.