I used to be super excited to report Medscape's annual physician compensation report as soon as they were released. I couldn't wait to tell my readers how great the income of anesthesiologists are. This year, not so much. Medscape's report has been out for nearly two weeks and I can barely get myself to write about its findings.
No, anesthesiologists still make one of the highest incomes in medicine. This year, Medscape found that anesthesiologists made an average of $364,000 per year. That compares to $360,000 last year, or a rise of about 1%. Yes the money is still good, but we are steadily falling behind other fields. By comparison, plastic surgery saw their income rise 24% in one year, allergy and immunology 16%, and ENT 13%. Even orthopedics, who already have the highest average salary in the survey, saw their salaries increase 10% to $489,000.
Whereas last year anesthesiology came in seventh place, this year we rank ninth. We were leapfrogged by both dermatology, $386,000, and ENT, $398,000. But to be fair, ENT wasn't specifically broken out into its own category a year ago.
Even though our incomes are stagnating, anesthesiologists in general feel pretty satisfied with what we've got. We rank fairly high in feeling well compensated for our work, with 57% satisfied with our incomes. But we can always ask for more. A plurality of 44% think anesthesiologists should make 11-25% more money than what they are making now. Another 32% want 26-50% more. Dream the impossible dream.
So what does this plateauing of anesthesia income mean? If we agree that the laws of supply and demand are immutable, it would appear that the anesthesiology job market has reached an equilibrium. Graduating ever more anesthesiologists and CRNA's will only exacerbate the issue. Until the forecast of an older patient population becomes reality and increases demand for anesthesia and surgical services, it would appear anesthesiologists' incomes are unlikely to see a significant bump for awhile.