Anesthesiologist Salaries Relatively High, but Declining Surgeon Numbers Pose a Threat

New York - Salaries for anesthesiologists are increasing, even as the overall pay for medical professionals is flat. However, a declining number of surgeons may lead to a reduction in demand for anesthesiologists, according to a recent study.


Anesthesiologist Salaries Relatively High, but Declining Surgeon Numbers Pose a Threat​

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, physician pay is stable. However, during the period of 2004 to 2014, compensation for anesthesiologists has increased. David DeKorte, JD, from Pennsylvania State University, in Middletown, led a study that reviewed information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Department of Education and the Association of American Medical Colleges to investigate how salaries and educational interest may affect the future of the anesthesiology profession. He presented his findings at the 2017 PostGraduate Assembly in Anesthesiology (abstract P-9134).

During 2004 to 2014, salaries for anesthesiologists increased at a rate of 1.21% per year, which was higher than any other specialty. Additionally, 2014 salaries for anesthesiologists were above those of other specialties, with a median salary of $246,650, which was nearly $6,000 higher than surgeons, the next wealthiest group. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the anesthesiology field grew at a rather remarkable rate during the same period—nearly 20%—versus only 3% for other fields.

However, the number of surgeons experienced a significant decline during that period, falling 26.4%, or just over 4% per year. Mr. DeKorte and his team suggested that many factors likely contribute to this trend, such as the rigor and length of residency, student debt, and the seven years of training required to become a surgeon. Compounding these factors, surgeon salaries are increasing at a rate of only 0.55% per year, which also may affect the attractiveness of the field.

Per the Department of Education, costs for undergraduate and medical training have risen steeply: up 23% and 27.9%, respectively. While medical school admissions have risen, large increases in student debt may mean that students steer clear of specialties with long residencies.

According to Mr. DeKorte, the “symbiotic relationship” between anesthesiology and surgery might mean that a shift away from surgery could have a long-term negative effect on the number of anesthesiology positions available.

And that, Mr. DeKorte said, is even if students keep determining that the costs of medical training are worth the effort. “Someone who is starting at age 18 and going four years of college, four years of medical school, three to seven years of residency. … When they get out, they will be paying roughly half of their income to loans,” he said. “The concern is whether 18-year-olds are thinking, ‘Is medical school worth it?’”

- Ethan Covey

Mr. DeKorte reported no relevant financial disclosures.


Source: Anesthesiology News



Anesthesiologist Salaries Relatively High, but Declining Surgeon Numbers Pose a Threat

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