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Physician Shortages Drive Increases in Provider Compensation

Healthcare employers increased compensation rates to attract and retain providers in the middle of a growing physician shortage.

By Jacqueline Belliveau

- The nationwide physician shortage continues to put pressure on healthcare organizations to retain quality employees by boosting employee compensation and providing incentives to stay at the organization, according to Health eCareers annual salary guide.

Physician shortages lead to boosts in provider compensation rates

While physician compensation increased by 2.5 percent from 2015, nurse practitioners and physician assistants also received significant bumps in salary by 5.3 percent and 4.3 percent respectively.

“Thanks to shortages of key professionals — including physicians and nurses — hospitals, clinics and other healthcare providers have to be even more competitive in their pursuit of new hires,” the guide stated. “The demand for nurse practitioners (NPs), physician assistants (PAs), certified nursing assistants (CNAs) and state-tested nursing assistants (STNAs) is equally fierce.”

“With more available jobs than professionals to fill them, salaries are on the rise. And not just for new employees; fearing the loss of their best workers, employers are naturally more willing to loosen their purse strings and pay higher wages.”

The demand for physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners has risen in response to recent healthcare trends that increased the need for more services. With 54.8 million residents reaching the age of 65 years by 2020 and payment reforms encouraging access to preventative services, healthcare organizations are looking to add more providers to treat higher patient volumes.

READ MORE: House Reps Address Physician Shortage in Medicare Residency Bill

However, many healthcare employers are finding it difficult to hire and retain providers because of physician shortages. Researchers at the Association of American Medical Colleges projected that the industry will face a shortage of 61,700 to 94,700 physicians by 2025.

Some hospitals and physician practices opened new physician assistant and nurse practitioner positions to compensate for a lack of physicians, reported Health eCareers.

Despite the boost in healthcare employment, though, the physician shortage trend created a favorable environment for employees.

“Without a doubt, it’s a job seekers’ market — and healthcare professionals know it,” stated the guide. “The majority (86%) are very confident or somewhat confident they can find a new position in their field within the next 12 months. And while PAs [physician assistants] and executives are the most confident, other occupations in high demand aren’t far behind.”

. Forty-one percent of providers reported that their compensation increased in the last year, while 46 percent said it stayed the same.

READ MORE: 52% of Provider Compensation Bonuses Tied to RVUs, Not Quality

According to the salary guide, the top reasons for salary increases included merit raises (30 percent), changed employers (22 percent), and mandated company-wide increases (15 percent).

Additionally, 61 percent of employers used other motivators and incentives to attract and retain providers, stated Health eCareers. Healthcare organizations offered more flexible work hours (25 percent), more vacation and paid time-off (16 percent), training and certification courses (15 percent), and more interesting or challenging assignments (10 percent). Less than ten percent of employers also used high-level recognition, stock options or equity, promotions or new titles, and retention bonuses to attract providers.

While most healthcare employers worked to retain staff by increasing salaries for providers in 2015, most nurses have not received similar benefits, even though there is also a shortage of qualified staff in the nursing field.  e. The guide found that nurse compensation actually decreased by 3.1 percent in the last year.

The healthcare industry has experienced a shortage of nurses because of an increased demand for providers and a large number of nurses exiting or preparing to exit the workforce. Healthcare organizations, however, did not focus on nurse retention as they did with physicians.

Researchers at Health eCareers reported that recommendations from healthcare stakeholders to limit a nurse’s work week to 40 hours may have influenced compensation rates and decreased income.

READ MORE: Healthcare Workforce Demand Growing Faster than Provider Supply

In efforts to attract new hires and keep quality staff, healthcare organizations may need to address the most significant career concerns for providers. The guide stated that over one-third of healthcare employees are worried about lower or no compensation increases, while 30 percent are concerned about increased workloads and patient volumes.

Other top career concerns were staff morale (27 percent), finding a new position for skill set (19 percent), and company stability and performance (17 percent).

In addition, healthcare employers are getting some help from federal agencies that have recognized the physician shortage problem. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) awarded over $149 million in July to workplace programs designed to boost healthcare employment for primary care providers.

“Our vision is to positively impact every aspect of the health professional’s career, from education and training to service,” said Jim Macrae, HRSA Acting Administrator. “These awards will increase the number of health professionals providing quality care to the nation’s most vulnerable populations.”

Through awards and more attractive healthcare employment incentives, many healthcare stakeholders are aiming to reduce workplace burdens on current employees and encourage the next generation of providers to enter the workforce.

Dig Deeper:

How Physician Shortages Are Transforming Healthcare’s Future

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