Dallas-based physician search firm Merritt Hawkins says medical groups and healthcare facilities are increasingly asking for help in recruiting specialists, while demand for primary care physicians, although it remains strong, has lowered.
Abut 74 percent of the firm’s searches over the last year were for specialists, up from 67 percent three years ago, Merritt Hawkins said in a new study out Tuesday. Meanwhile, searches for primary care physicians—a group made up of family doctors, internists, and pediatricians—fell by 32 percent over the same period and by 19 percent during the last 12 months.
Merritt Hawkins looked at the period of April 1, 2017, through May 31, 2018 for its analysis, which takes into account a sample of 3,045 physician and advanced practitioner recruiting assignments. A part of AMN Healthcare, Merritt Hawkins does recruitment on behalf of medical groups and hospital systems. It has traditionally served smaller communities more heavily, but the firm notes that this year 62 percent of the searches took place in communities of 100,000 people or more—meaning even large communities are facing challenges.
Travis Singleton, a senior vice president at Merritt Hawkins, says in a statement that the shift toward specialty recruitment is a matter of demographics.
“Americans are getting older, and it is medical specialists who will be taking care of our aging and ailing bodies and brains,” Singleton says. “We still need more primary care doctors, but a growing emphasis is being placed on recruiting specialists.”
Family medicine remained the number one search, Merritt Hawkins notes, even as primary care overall took up a smaller piece of the pie. Singleton says that a rising number of nurse practitioners and physician assistants could be contributing to less primary care demand. Searches for nurse practitioners—which play a key role at the growing number of urgent care centers in the country—were up 61 percent year-over-year.
Psychiatrists continue to be in high demand, coming in as Merritt Hawkins’ second-most requested area for the third straight year. Below is how the top 10 shake out (in parenthesis is the average salary offered for the positions for which MH is recruiting):
1. Family medicine ($241,000)
2. Psychiatry ($261,000)
3. Nurse practitioner ($129,000)
4. Internal medicine ($261,000)
5. Radiology ($371,000)
6. OB/GYN ($324,000)
7. Hospitalist ($269,000)
8. Gastroenterology ($487,000)
9. Urgent Care ($234,000)
10. Orthopedic Surgery ($533,000)