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Survey: These are the Highest-Paid Specialities for NPs and PAs

Healthcare facilities, hospitals, and medical groups are looking to hire more medical specialists and fewer primary care practitioners than in previous years — but PCPs are still the most in-demand specialty. 

According to an annual report from Merritt Hawkins, a prominent research firm that tracks recruiting trends and starting salaries of HCPs, 78 percent of Merritt Hawkins’ recruiting engagements in the past year were for medical specialists, up from 67 percent four years ago. During the same period, the number of searches the firm conducted for primary care physicians declined 38 percent.

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What does the report show?

That said, for the thirteenth consecutive year, family care topped the list of Merritt Hawkins’ 20 most-requested assignments, which underscores the ongoing, robust demand for primary care practitioners.

“There is still a strong demand for primary care physicians, but specialists are in high demand because we have an older and sicker population,” says Travis Singleton, executive vice president of Merritt Hawkins, owned by AMN Healthcare, which has been issuing the annual report for 26 years. “Every day, 10,000 people in this country turn 65. And even if you have the best preventive care system in the world, we are still going to be old and have health problems. We need specialists.” 

The report, entitled the 2019 Review of Physician and Advanced Practitioner Recruiting Incentives, notes that Merritt Hawkins’ search engagements are increasing in the medical specialties where severe shortages are anticipated — infectious disease, for instance.

Another shortage is projected for geriatricians. Right now, Merritt Hawkins says, there are around 7,300 certified geriatricians in the U.S. By 2030, some 30,000 will be needed, according to the American Geriatrics Society. There’s also a critical shortage of psychiatrists, according to the report, which shows that psychiatry was the firm’s second most requested search. 

What’s the takeaway for healthcare providers?

The trend toward more job opportunities for medical specialists is good news for NPs and PAs who choose to specialize in a particular field, according to Singleton.

“Typically, all of the trends and changes hit the MD workplace and then are closely followed by the PA and NP workplace,” he says. “If you are a PA or an NP, or you are a candidate to be one, this is the best market we have seen in a decade. If you are looking for a job, this is all good news for you.”

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It bodes well for RNs, too, Singleton adds. With hospitals employing PAs and NPs in numbers like never before, more jobs for RNs are available. “As your medical staff grows, your nursing staff has to grow, too — any increase in the medical staff is a positive for the nursing ranks,” he explains.

Of the most-requested specialities outlined in the report, invasive cardiologists have the highest average starting salary at $648,000, followed by orthopedic surgeons at $536,000. Of the specialties that apply to NPs and PAs, the highest paid were, in this order: urology, gastroenterology, non-invasive cardiology, dermatology and anesthesiology.

The average starting salary for family practitioners has decreased slightly since last year, from $241,000 to $239,000. The report also looked at average starting salaries for NPs in general, which fell from $129,000 last year to $124,000 this year. On the other hand, certified registered nurse anesthetists’ average starting salary grew from $194,000 last year to $197,000 this year.

2019 Review of Physician and Advanced Practitioner Recruiting Incentives, Merritt Hawkins.

Last updated on 10/9/19.

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