The financial and workplace pressures brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic are putting a major strain on physicians, impacting their pay as well as job satisfaction, according to a new survey.
The average pay for doctors increased by 3.8% from 2020 to 2021, which is up from a nominal increase of 1.5% last year, according to the fifth annual Physician Compensation Report (PDF) from professional medical network Doximity.
However, like last year, the increase did not outpace the rate of inflation. In 2021, the 12-month headline inflation rate was 6.2% as measured by the Consumer Price Index. So, when compared against the 2021 inflation rate, doctors experienced a decline in real income, Doximity reported.
The overall 3.8% pay increase matches up with the pre-pandemic growth rate of 4% and may be attributable to the tight labor market for clinicians.
The pandemic also has taken a toll on physicians' desire to stay in the medical profession, with data suggesting doctors are speeding up their retirement plans.
An analysis of Medicare claims data shows major disruption to practice patterns at the onset of COVID-19, coinciding with an increase in physician retirement, representing an extra 1% of the physician workforce. Given that the pandemic continues and that physicians report increasing rates of burnout, this is concerning for 2022 physician retirement trends and the growing physician shortage, according to the report.
About three-quarters of physicians (73%) reported feeling overworked, and about half reported considering an employment change due to COVID-related overwork. Notably, female physicians are considering early retirement at higher rates than their male colleagues.
“Medical professionals’ responsibilities, hours and stresses grew dramatically during the pandemic and, as a result, we’ve seen an increase in burnout, especially among female physicians. For that reason, this is the first year our study has surveyed physicians regarding their retirement plans,” said Peter Alperin, M.D., vice president of product at Doximity, in a statement. “By tracking this new data, as well as the compensation information we’ve reported on for years, we hope to provide the medical community with a framework to help it understand employee’s sentiments, hiring needs and dynamics.”