Radiologists still high on recruiters' wish lists

It’s just a hunch, but my guess would be that most radiologists today haven't noticed any decrease in the number of calls, letters, and e-mails they are getting from physician recruiters.

Nevertheless, the number of searches Merritt, Hawkins & Associates conducts for radiologists has declined in the last several years. Our 2007 Review of Physician Recruiting Incentives indicates that between April 1, 2006 and March 31, 2007, we conducted 187 searches for radiologists. This is down from the 237 radiology searches we conducted in the prior year, and down from the 218 radiology searches we conducted the year before that.

You have to go back a little farther in time to get a true picture of where the radiology job market stands today, however. Six years ago, Merritt, Hawkins & Associates conducted 126 searches for radiologists. Ten years ago, radiology was barely on our radar, and we conducted only 11 searches for radiologists.

By all indications we see the demand for radiologists, while perhaps not at a historical peak, as still very strong. One of these indications is the average salaries our clients are offering to recruit radiologists. The chart below tracks how income offers to radiologists have increased over the last several years:

Average salary offers made to radiologists
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2006-2007 $380,000
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2005-2006 $351,000
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2004-2005 $355,000
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2003-2004 $336,000
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Source: Merritt, Hawkins & Associates 2007 Review of Physician Recruiting Incentives

It is instructive to note that the average salary offer to radiologists increased by a fairly healthy 8%, from 2005-2006 to 2006-2007, even though the number of searches we performed for radiologists declined during this period. High-end offers made to radiologists still run at $500,000, as they have for the previous two years. This is a clear sign that radiology still is perceived throughout the marketplace as a difficult search to fill.

Another sign is that radiologists continue to be offered the most generous vacation packages of any medical specialty we recruit. Eight to 12 weeks of vacation is common for radiologists, while four to six weeks is considered positive for most other specialties (some time-off packages for radiologists go as high as 26 weeks).

In addition, many radiology groups have reduced their path-to-partner times from two to three years to one year, which is quite uncommon in other specialties. In order to be competitive, some radiology groups are offering immediate partnership income and production bonus structure, with voting rights kicking in after one year.

We contact most of the hospital radiology departments in the U.S. on a regular basis, and speak to many of the radiology groups. They continue to tell us that demand for radiologists remains high and that they are actively looking. In a growing number of cases, hospitals and groups are seeking specific imaging skills such as musculoskeletal or body imaging.

Radiology is virtually unique among medical specialties in that work can be shifted from areas of limited physician capacity to areas of extra physician capacity through teleradiology. That is one reason why demand for radiologists is not at the fever pitch it was several years ago.

Nevertheless, we received more requests for radiologists last year than we did for any other kind of doctor, with the exception of family practitioners, general internists, and hospitalists.

It is only recently that primary care physicians such as family doctors and internists have been in strong demand. For most of the last 10 years, diagnostic and surgical specialists have been the prime recruiting targets.

Today's market is strong for virtually all types of doctors. The national physician shortage is a tide that has raised all boats from the recruiting perspective. It will take years to significantly increase physician supply, so we project that the demand for doctors will be strong for some time.

Due to the growing importance of imaging, and the fact that little gets done in healthcare today without a picture, this certainly should hold true in radiology.

By Mark Smith contributing writer
August 14, 2007

Mark Smith is executive vice president of Merritt, Hawkins & Associates, a national physician search and consulting firm and a division of AMN Healthcare. He can be reached at [email protected].

Related Reading

Radiology ranks second in salary survey, August 1, 2007

RT wages growing more slowly, ASRT finds, July 26, 2007

Mammography pays well despite reputation, SalaryScan survey says, May 10, 2007

Radiologists ride Rocky Mountain high in SalaryScan survey, June 1, 2006

Radiologists in growing demand as locum tenens, November 15, 2005

Copyright © 2007

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