Survey: Average Salaries for Health IT Pros Increased, But Compensation Dropped for Executives, Nurses

Aug. 11, 2016
Healthcare executives and nurses saw their salaries decline last year, but salaries for healthcare IT professionals and physicians and surgeons increased, according to a Health eCareers 2016 Salary Guide.

Healthcare executives and nurses saw their salaries decline last year, but salaries for healthcare IT professionals and physicians and surgeons increased, according to a Health eCareers 2016 Salary Guide.

For the survey, Health eCareers polled close to 20,000 healthcare professionals, and the findings indicated that 87 percent saw their pay increase or at least remain at the same level last year.

Ten out of the 14 positions included in the survey saw salary increases over the past year, but some increases were more sizeable than others. And, key positions such as nursing actually saw a decline in average compensation.

The average salary for physicians and surgeons was $255,658, a 2.5 percent uptick from the previous year, according to survey respondents. However, healthcare executives saw a large decrease in compensation this year, a 12.9 percent decline with reported average salaries of $134,632. Nurses earned an average of $61,875, which was 3 percent lower than the survey results from the previous year.

Nurse practitioners and physician assistants both saw salary gains, 4.3 percent and 5.3 percent, respectively.

Healthcare IT professionals earned an average of $91,251 during the time period, a 2.2 percent increase.

The largest year-over-year salary increases were healthcare academics/research professionals (26.6 percent), administrative/operations professionals (20.4 percent) and allied health (17.8 percent).

Average compensation for radiologic technologist/imaging rose slightly, by 0.2 percent, and dietician/nutritionists’ saw a 9 percent increase in compensation. Average salaries for pharmacy staff declined 7 percent and counselors/social services also saw a drop in average compensation, by 3.5 percent.

The survey authors note that the healthcare industry is experiencing strong employment growth. In 2015, 475,000 new healthcare jobs were created, and in the first quarter of 2016 alone, U.S. healthcare employers added another 112,000 professionals to their staffs. This is driven, in some part, by the growth of the U.S. population and the demands on the healthcare system.

The U.S. is both a growing and an aging country, with a population that increased 0.78 percent last year and a projected 54.8 million residents over the age of 65 by 2020, compared to only 46.2 million in 2014.

At the same time, there is a shortage of key professionals, such as physicians and nurses, which drives hospitals, clinics and other healthcare professionals to be competitive in their pursuit of new hires. It is currently a job seeker’s market, with a demand specifically for nurse practitioners (NPs), physician assistants (PAs), certified nursing assistants (CNAs) and state-tested nursing assistants (STNAs), according to the survey report.

“With more available jobs than professionals to fill them, salaries are on the rise. And not just for new employees; fearing the loss of their best workers, employers are naturally more willing to loosen their purse strings and pay higher wages,” the survey authors wrote. And, survey respondents most often reported merit raises or change in employer as the reason for their increase.

While nurse practitioners, physicians assistants and physicians/surgeons all received pay bumps, NP and PA total compensation increased more than that of physicians/surgeons. “The physician shortage—predicted to be between 61,700 and 94,700 physicians by 2025 according to the Association of American Medical Colleges—has many healthcare providers hiring NPs and PAs in greater numbers. This is likely leading to even greater competition for new hires, and higher salaries in the process,” the report authors stated.

Nurses saw their average compensation decline despite the ongoing nursing shortage. The report authors surmised that the 40-hour workweek limits recommended by the American Nurse Association in late 2014 factored into the salary decline.

About half of survey respondents who experienced a salary decline said they had changed employers and other reasons cited for the reduced compensation included employers cutting their hours and either a lower bonus for performance or no bonus.

The survey also looked at job and salary satisfaction. More than half (57 percent) of healthcare professionals surveyed reporting that they are happy with their jobs and current employers. Only 43 percent are actively looking for better opportunities. Among those planning a change, common reasons include higher compensation, more rewarding/ challenging work, better working hours and the desire to work for a different organization.

According to the findings, physicians assistants are the most satisfied, with 60 percent reporting job satisfaction, and about half of healthcare IT professionals reported being very or somewhat satisfied.

Among physicians/surgeons, 38 percent report that their biggest concern for the next year is lower or no salary increases. Other significant concerns include increased workload/patient load, staff morale and company stability/ performance.

Among the physicians who expressed salary dissatisfaction, compensation that was below that of similar positions in the region and requirements to work hours for which they are not compensated were the most commonly reported reasons. “These extra hours could be contributing to rising physician burnout as well. A recent study found the top four causes of physician burnout are too many bureaucratic tasks, spending too many hours at work, increasing computerization of practice and income not high enough,” the report authors stated.

Increased workload/patient load was a top concern for all healthcare professionals, along with lower salaries, staff morale and company stability/performance.

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