Emergency physicians aren’t the highest earners in medicine, but they aren’t the lowest either, and overall most say they are satisfied with their career and income, according to Medscape's annual salary survey.
More than 1,400 emergency physicians participated in the 2013 Medscape Compensation Report, about six percent of the 24,075 physicians in 25 specialties who responded.
Orthopedists led all specialties in income in 2013, pulling in $413,000 a year, beating emergency physicians by $141,000 and bringing in $239,000 a year more the lowest earning specialty, HIV/infectious disease specialists.
Emergency physicians earned $272,000 on average in 2013, falling about halfway through the pack: they ranked 13th in a field of 25 specialties. Emergency physician salaries rose by one percent over 2012, according to the Medscape report, well below the specialty with the biggest increase — 15 percent for rheumatology — but well above the specialty with largest decrease — down eight percent for nephrology.
Salaries for emergency physicians were highest in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas ($295,000) and in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee ($293,000). Coming in third were EPs in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota ($286,000) followed by those in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin ($279,000). Emergency medicine salaries in California and Hawaii averaged $274,000 followed by Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington State, and Wyoming at $265,000. EPs in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah followed with an average salary of $261,000. The lowest emergency medicine earners were in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont at $248,000, and just above them were those in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia at $259,000.
Male emergency physicians make more than female EPs, earning $283,000 to $235,000, though female emergency physicians said they feel slightly more satisfied with their income than men: 62 percent vs. 60 percent. Emergency physicians overall are more content with their salaries compared with all physicians, however. Sixty-one percent of emergency physicians said they feel fairly compensated, coming in behind only dermatologists at 64 percent. At the bottom, only 37 percent of plastic surgeons said they were fairly compensated; plastic surgeons make an average of $321,000 a year, 18 percent more than EPs..
Thirty-eight percent of emergency physicians said being good at what they do and making good money (18%) were the most rewarding parts of their jobs. Fifteen percent pointed to relationships with patients as most fulfilling, and 13 percent said "making the world a better place" was most rewarding. Three percent said they found nothing rewarding about their profession.
Sixty-one percent of emergency clinicians said they would choose medicine again, and 46 percent said they would choose emergency medicine again. Income did not seem to influence whether a physician would choose medicine again, according to the Medscape report. Plastic surgeons, orthopedists, radiologists, and anesthesiologists were the least likely to choose medicine again but were among the top earners.
Self-employed emergency physicians earned more on average than employed EPs: $305,000 vs. $248,000. Twenty-three percent of emergency physicians reported to Medscape that they participate in Accountable Care Organizations, and five percent said they will be joining one this year. A majority of EPs — 68 percent — said they regularly or occasionally discuss costs with patients.
Sixty-six percent of emergency physicians said they spend 40 hours or less seeing patients each week while 34 percent said they spend more than 40 hours a week seeing patients. Seventy-nine percent of anesthesiologists (average salary: $338,000), in comparison, said they spend more than 40 hours a week seeing patients while only 22 percent of pathologists (average salary: $239,000) and 27 percent of dermatologists (average salary: $308,000) said they spend more than 40 hours a week with patients.
More than a third of EPs — 38 percent — said they have between 25 and 75 patient visits per week. Forty-five percent said they have between 76 and 124 visits a week. Fourteen percent said they have more than 125 visits each week. Emergency physicians also spend considerable time on paperwork and administrative tasks each week: 26 percent of employed EPs and 15 percent of self-employed EPs reported spending at least 10 hours per week completing those tasks.
Fifty-three percent of emergency physicians were not sure whether they would participate in health insurance exchanges in 2014, the same percentage as that reported by all physicians, the report said. “Only 28 percent were certain that they would participate in the exchanges, and 19 percent were sure that they wouldn't,” according to Medscape. “Reasons cited were lower compensation, higher workload, decline in quality of patient care and access, and reduced ability to make decisions.” More than half said they did not expect their salaries to change under health insurance exchanges while nine percent expected them to increase and 40 percent said they expected them to decrease.