More on Workforce

Healthcare staffing gaps push salaries up for most medical professionals

Physician assistants seeing larger increase than physicians, though many express dissatisfaction in their jobs.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

The U.S. healthcare industry is feeling the staffing pinch with a growing and aging population, which requires more care and has greater access to it. According to career hub Health eCareers and data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 475,000 new healthcare jobs were created in 2015 to handle this growth -- although there's still a shortage of key positions, making it a job-seeker's market.

Health eCareers' annual Healthcare Salary Guide, based on a survey involving nearly 20,000 healthcare professionals, found that 87 percent are making more or the same as a year ago.

Ten out of the 14 positions studied saw salary increases over the past year, but some were more sizeable than others. In fact, key positions such as nursing actually saw a drop.

HIMSS20 Digital

Learn on-demand, earn credit, find products and solutions. Get Started >>

[Also: Population health, workforce salary management key hospital cost control strategies, CFOs say]

Compared to 2015 data, the average annual salary for physicians and surgeons was $255,648, a 2.5 percent increase. Healthcare executives made $134,632, a 12.9 percent decrease; physician assistants made $105,856, a 4.3 percent increase; nurse practitioners made $100,549, a 5.3 percent increase; healthcare IT professionals made $91,251, a 2.2 percent increase; and nurses made $61,875, a 3.1 percent decrease.

The positions that reported the largest year-over-year salary increases were academics/research, administrative/operations and allied health. Healthcare executives and pharmacy saw the biggest decrease this year.

"It struck us that NPs and PAs received a higher pay bump than physicians," said Bassett. "This could, at least in part, be attributed to the physician shortage, which is causing healthcare providers to hire NPs and PAs in larger numbers, and having to pay them more to be competitive."

[Also: Big salary gap between men, women in healthcare management, HIMSS survey finds]

Where employees live also plays a role in their pay. Physicians in California are paid nearly $40,000 more a year than their Florida counterparts, and nurses in New York are paid over $7,000 more than those in Colorado.

Healthcare professionals have varying levels of satisfaction with their current pay and jobs, according to the survey. Forty-five percent are satisfied with their salaries, 14 percent are neutral and 41 percent are dissatisfied. When it comes to their jobs and employers, 57 percent report being happy, but a sizeable 43 percent are actively looking for better opportunities.

Among nurses, only 44 percent are satisfied with their salaries. The main drivers of dissatisfaction are disparities between salaries and experience or pay grade for similar jobs in the region. Seventeen percent are happy and plan to stay in their current jobs, but 13 percent are actively looking elsewhere.

Physician assistants are the most satisfied with their salary and current position; 60 percent are happy about their pay and 27 percent said they are "very happy" in their current jobs.

Those who are dissatisfied pointed to pay that is below similar positions, and being required to work uncompensated hours.

Like Healthcare Finance on Facebook

Despite swelling wages for many positions, nearly half are actively looking for better opportunities. And their confidence is high.

Of those studied, 29 percent said they anticipate changing employers in the next year, while 30 percent have no plans to change; 41 percent are unsure. What's more, 86 percent are confident they could find a new position. Top reasons given for seeking new employment included higher pay, more rewarding and challenging work, better working hours and a desire for a different organization.

For their part, employers are falling short in motivating employees to stay.  Survey results showed that while 61 percent offer some type of incentive to retain employees, this represents just a 1 percent increase from last year. Meanwhile, 39 percent offer no motivator at all.

"Healthcare employers have an opportunity to sway those 41 percent who are on the fence about leaving," said Bryan Bassett, Health eCareer's managing director, in a statement. "It's not just about higher pay. They could be incented with more rewarding or challenging tasks, or by retooling their work hours."

Twitter: @JELagasse