A typical workday for a doctor looks a little different than it used to, according to the results of the latest Medscape Physician Compensation Report. The survey results also show that despite all the changes and all the frustrations, 77 percent of doctors say they would choose a career in medicine all over again. The results of this annual analysis tell us a great deal about how the profession is changing, and about how these shifts are impacting the day-to-day lives of doctors.
1. There has been an increase in paperwork and it’s taking a toll.
“The increase in paperwork in the past five years is striking,” Michael Smith, MD, medical director and chief medical editor of WebMD/Medscape, told Managed Care. “In 2012, the majority of physicians (53%) spent between one and four hours per week on paperwork and administrative tasks. Today, nearly 40% report spending between 10 and 20 hours per week. It represents a major change in physicians’ responsibilities.”
According to this year’s Medscape Lifestyle Report, the most frequently cited cause of burnout among doctors was “too many bureaucratic tasks” followed by “spending too many hours at work.” In 2014, the survey found that 26 percent of self-employed physicians and 35 percent of those who worked for an employer reported that they spent at least 10 hours a week on paperwork. This year, 57 percent of all physicians spent that amount of time. A lot of paperwork and bureaucracy is likely to lead to longer hours and less time with patients, and that takes a toll on doctors.
2. The racial and gender pay gaps in medicine are substantial.
Survey respondents were asked to identify their race for the first time this year. When compensation was broken down along racial lines, the gap proved to be pretty steep. On average, white/Caucasian physicians earned an average of $303,000 per year. Asian physicians earned $283,000 on average, and Hispanic or Latino doctors made $271,000 per year. Black/African American physicians had the lowest average pay — $262,000 per year.
Women working in the profession also experience a significant pay gap. Male primary care doctors earn $229,000 annually, on average. But, women who work as primary care physicians earn $197,000. The gap persists among specialists. These men earn $345,000 on average each year while their female counterparts earn almost $100,000 less per year — with average salaries of $251,000.
3. Still, most physicians would elect to stay in the medical field if they could start again.
This survey found that despite all of the changes and frustrations of the work itself, most physicians would choose a career in medicine if they had it do over again. Thirty-three percent said that their relationships with patients and the gratitude they receive from helping them is the most rewarding part of the job. The second most common reward was “being very good at what I do / finding answers, diagnosis.” Doctors care about their patients and their work.
Rheumatologists were the most likely to say they’d choose a career in the field all over again. Eighty-three percent said that they would. Neurologists were the least likely to concur, but 71 percent said they’d make the same choice. Overall, 77 percent of doctors said they’d choose a career in medicine again. Dermatologists were the most likely to choose the same specialty — 96 percent said they’d follow the same path.
For the most part, the dedicated professionals who work as doctors still find their jobs meaningful and fulfilling despite all of the frustrations and problems that come with working as a physician in 2017. But, just because most doctors would do it again, that doesn’t meant they aren’t paying the price in other ways. Stress, and eventually burnout, could mean good doctors walk away from the profession before they would otherwise. It would be wise for everyone working in the healthcare field, or those who are interested in it, to pay close attention to these trends, and their impact, in the years to come.
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