Go South, Doctor

Physician's Money Digest, September15 2003, Volume 10, Issue 17

The greater demand for emergencyroom (ER) physicians hasled to an overall increase in ERsalaries nationwide. Doctors in SouthCentral states (from New Mexico toLouisiana) are enjoying the biggestboost, according to the 2002 NationalSalary and Compensation survey.Conducted by Daniel Stern & Associates(www.danielstern.com), aPittsburgh-based emergency physicianrecruiting firm, the survey foundthat the average compensation forER doctors was $218,470 last year, up18% from $184,800 in 1997. Doctorsin South Central states had the highestrates of compensation, with thosewho were paid by the hour earningan average income of $258,173 ayear, while those who were paid astraight salary averaged $224,583.

Compensation levels for ER doctorswere found to be lowest in theNortheast, where doctors paid anhourly rate averaged $196,087 andthose on straight salary averaged$196,082. Among the reasons forthe disparity are higher state reimbursementsfor professional servicesand lower malpractice insurancerates in southern states.

The nationwide increase insalaries for ER doctors is an illustrationof the classic supply-and-demandeconomic theory. ER visits increasedby 20% in the decade between 1992and 2001, according to the Centersfor Disease Control and Prevention,reaching a total of 107.5 million. Atthe same time, several ERs haveclosed and residency programs inemergency medicine are turning outabout the same number of ER doctorseach year. The impact of the bigboost in demand coupled with a relativelystable population of ER doctorshas led to the significant increases insalaries for ER specialists.