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Survey: Most Health Care Professionals Would Leave Jobs for Better Pay

Stagnant incomes have workers looking elsewhere

With an increased demand for health care services being driven by everything from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to an aging baby boomer population, health care professionals are shouldering more responsibility than ever before. And yet, according to a national health care salary study released by Health eCareers, an online health care industry career site, nearly half (45%) of surveyed health care professionals said they had not received a pay increase during the past year, and another 14% were making less than they were a year ago.

Moreover, health care professionals are feeling bullish about their job prospects, with 68% reporting they would change employers for higher pay.

The study of more than 28,000 health care professionals, including nurses, nurse practitioners, physicians, surgeons, and administrative personnel, also determined average salaries by position and other trends in health care compensation.

On average, physicians across the country are earning nearly a quarter of a million dollars ($249,353) a year, making it the highest-paid health care profession evaluated in the study. Health care executives rank second, with an average reported salary of $154,573 a year, followed by physician assistants at $101,528, nurse practitioners at $95,531, and health care IT professionals at $89,247. On the lower end of the spectrum, allied health professionals reported earning $42,171 per year, and dieticians earn $51,813.

The area of specialty seemed to influence pay as well. Family-medicine nurses reported earning $86,349 annually, whereas cardiology nurses earn earn $78,607 on average. Conversely, cardiology physicians earn a reported $359,044 on average, whereas family-medicine physicians earn just half of that at $177,053 a year.

Interestingly, the survey found that nonprofit employees tend to earn more than their for-profit counterparts in both hourly and salaried positions.

Despite being tasked with more work and heavier patient loads, most health care professionals said they weren’t being rewarded with raises. More than half –– 59% –– reported that their pay was the same or even lower than a year ago. Of the small percentage that did report an increase, most said it was due to changing employers. The low instance of pay raises could be due, at least in part, to budgets being allocated to hire new employees to fill patient needs and to IT infrastructure upgrades needed to conform to legislative requirements, the survey suggests.

Physician assistants and nurse practitioners reported the highest instances of pay increases, likely due to taking on more of the work typically done by physicians.

More than 40% of health care workers reported being dissatisfied with their current pay. Of those reporting dissatisfaction, the top reasons given were that their salaries were lower than average for similar jobs in their region; that their salaries didn’t reflect their level of experience; that they were not compensated for extra hours worked; and that their salary increases were too infrequent or too low.

Health care is a job-seekers’ market, and the survey showed that most workers would be quick to leave their current employer for a better offer. Because the number of health care job opportunities is skyrocketing, health care workers were optimistic about their ability to find new jobs. Of those surveyed, 86% said they were confident they could find a favorable new position within the next 12 months. Further, more than a third (34%) said they anticipated changing employers this year.

The study results suggest that pay trumps loyalty among most health care professionals, with 68% reporting that they would change employers if it meant an increase in compensation.

With a new generation of workers entering the health care industry, factors beyond salary, such as work/life balance, are becoming increasingly important to attract and retain employees. Only 60% of those surveyed, however, said their current employers offer other motivating factors beyond compensation. Of those who do receive additional benefits, the top ones cited were flexible hours; vacation and other paid time off; training and certification courses; and more interesting or challenging assignments.

Health care professionals had several concerns about their jobs and the industry as a whole in 2015, with worries about pay increases topping the list:

  • 42% of respondents were concerned that they will see little-to-no increase in pay
  • 33% said they were concerned about increased workloads/patient loads
  • 22% were worried about staff morale
  • 21% said they were concerned about finding an appropriate new position for their skill set

The responses were collected in January and February 2015 via an online survey of 28,399 health care professionals from the Health eCareers database. Represented occupations included nurses (18%), administrative/operations personnel (12%), physicians and surgeons (10%), allied health professionals (8%), nurse practitioners (7%), and a mix of other health care positions. Seventy-seven percent of respondents currently work full time; 8% work part time; 5% work per diem or on contract; and 2% work irregular hours or are on call. The remaining respondents (8%) are currently unemployed or retired.

Source: Health eCareers; July 15, 2015.


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