The Search for Medical Specialists

Primary care physicians still top the list for recruitment requests, but medical recruiters are shifting their focus to specialists.

According to a 2018 Merritt Hawkins and Associates Review, a national healthcare search and consulting firm, 74% of their search assignments were for medical specialists, up from 67% in 2015. According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), psychiatrists were second on the list, reflecting a severe shortage of mental health professionals. Internal Medicine, Ob-Gyn and Hospitalists were third, fourth, and fifth, respectively.

While primary care physicians are highest in demand, their average base salary this year was $231,000. Specialists command higher salaries. Invasive cardiologists have the highest annual starting salaries at $590,000, followed by orthopedic surgeons at $533,000. Other well-compensated physicians include gastroenterologists, radiologists, and dermatologists.

With changing demographics, as Americans get older, an emphasis is being placed on chronic and geriatric care, which includes specialists that provide pulmonary, gastroenterology, and cardiac care. There will be an increasing demand for these skills.

Recruiters need to be cognizant of the evolution of the healthcare delivery system. They need to be aware of not only trending specialties that command higher compensation but also of specialties that are in high demand. The two are not necessarily correlated. While psychiatrists are in high demand, their average salary is $263,000, lower than other specialties. Recruiting practices need to keep abreast of shifting medical needs with changing demographics.