Doctor, are you worth more post-pandemic?
As a physician, are you worth more post-pandemic? Is it time to ask for a raise?
Doctor, you never know what you’re worth until you’re gone.
Have you negotiated a pay increase recently? Especially in a post-covid world, you might be worth more than you think!
Since I’m retiring soon, my job was posted on a physician job board. Read on to find out what I am worth to my hospital, and what they actually were paying me.
Medical Salaries and the 50% Percentile
Salaries are fickle in medicine. They pay you at the 50% percentile for your specialty and location. Of course, you are being compared to a group where to goal is to pay at the 50% percentile as well.
So, that’s like trying to be average on a group that is based upon the average of the average of the people in the group. Huh?
Of course, we know some specialties pay better than others.
Not that I really need to make this point, but ID is one of the few specialties where you actually lose money to do a fellowship. That’s right, good thing it is only a 2-year fellowship because then on average you only lose a thousand bucks a year per extra year of training for the rest of your career. Or actually it is more than that if you consider hospitalists, and much more for nocturnists.
You can see above that my specialty pays seventh worst overall.
And of course, location is important as well. Geographic Arbitrage is all the rage if you will just live in one of the flyover States.
But we just suffered through the first pandemic in 100 years. Perhaps this is the year to ask for a pay raise if you practice infectious diseases.
Are ID docs worth more post-pandemic?
Are Infectious Disease Physicians Worth More in a Post-Covid World?
One might think that infectious disease increased its cache in a post-covid world. We need more type-A intellects spouting IDSA treatment guidelines while trying to kill off evil HCAP ones.
Personally I’ve never really fit in well in ID. I’m a big-picture thinker, happy to give my preliminary assessment based upon brief review of the data. As they say, often wrong, never in doubt… but as long as you don’t miss something that is going to kill someone, many times you are fine just being close enough. Like in horseshoes, hand grenades and ID: when in doubt, stop the vanco/zosyn and give doxy. Or steroids.
Next, I think healthcare systems are best served when ID focuses on diagnosis and then implements a cost-conscious treatment plan. After all, we are loss leaders to the system, only there to support oncology, orthopedics and the other groups that actually make the hospital money. And to prevent dings from CAUDIs and CLABSIs.
Specifically, think about our job in infection prevention—if we are good at it… then absolutely nothing happens. That CLABSI that doesn’t happen means no one gets paid for the poor care provided at the hospital.
So, if ID is a loss leader, and if we are effective no one notices, what are we worth?
Of course, you are only worth what someone is willing to pay you.
I bet that worth increased as a result of Covid.
And now since my job just got posted, I can tell you exactly what I’m worth.
Doctor, Where are You Going to Practice?
As a brief interlude to build suspense: I should mention that even though I live in the largest city in Montana, there are only 3 ID docs in town. I’m the only one in my healthcare system, which includes 3 hospitals (though hundreds of miles apart… this is after all big sky country).
And there are about 10-15 ID docs in the whole state. That’s right, some of you see more ID folks than that gathered around an interesting rash or antibiotics susceptibility report than we have in our whole state.
So, there is no doubt that it is actually my specific job posted. The other hospital in town runs through docs like crazy cause they treat them like interchangeable widgets (and have horrific physician leadership, but I shouldn’t say something like that on a blog). But as far as I know, they continue to place more interest in making money than they do in anything else, and are not hiring loss leaders.
Back to the job posting.
So, What am I worth?
As it turns out, I am worth 22% more than I am being paid. That is, my job posted at a 22% mark-up to what I am making now. Interesting!
Above, you can see the actual posting for my job.
Interested? You can make 22% more than I make a year!
But wait, why would you post a job at 299k?
Why Post a Job at 299k?
I’m also fascinated that a job would be posed at 299k rather than at 300k. Would you rather make 200 or 300?
At least, that’s what psychologists have figured out when pricing consumer goods. Do you want to pay $2.99 for something or $3.01? Clearly for all intents and purposes, they are the same number. But which one gets purchased much more?
So, for an extra 20 bucks a pay period, they could have posted the job at 300k and it would receive more eyeballs and clicks and applications and candidates. That’s 10 bucks a week, or 2 bucks per day working.
Maybe I’m overthinking this. But would you post a job for 299k or 300k?
Let’s move on and see how that salary compares to my specialty and location!
Average Salary for my Specialty and Location
Above, you can see the average salary, the salary distribution and the comparison to national averages for my specialty and location.
I’ve been in practice for 18 years, so note from 15-21 years of experience, my expected salary is 7% higher than the national average.
Note that the current job posting is also 11% more than the expected amount for the location and specialty.
Does that mean ID salary has increased in the last two years because of the pandemic? I guess we need to wait a year or two for the data to be formally reported, as an antcidote does not data make.
Let’s look at the other data we can find based upon years of experience:
Experience Salary (100k) National Average
1-7 $184 Same
8-14 $234 10% higher
15-21 $268 7% higher
22-28 $282 3% higher
29-35 $273 Same
36+ $242 ID was a specialty then?
Note the geographic arbitrage possibility for living in the lovely (and burning) mountain west. It is called the NorthWest in this survey. Who is included in your region really effects your salary, never forget that.
And one could assume since there is higher than median salaries for the younger groups of ID physicians that we have under-recruited to the area in a recent past? Or maybe I’m just reading too much into these small numbers.
Conclusion: As a Physician, you never know what you’re worth til you’re gone
So there you have it. I could stick around and ask for a 22% raise, or I could FIRE as planned.
You really never know what you are worth until you are gone.
But what is ironic, when I found out 3 years ago that I was FI, that I was no longer working for the money, rather I was working because I enjoyed doing so… I would have taken half of what I make now and kept working. One more year and all. Then again, I have checked off all the boxes for physician retirement, and I’m out of here in a few months.
Now, you could offer me twice what I’m making and I have no reason to stick around. I’m counting down the days until I can call myself stay at home dad instead of doctor.