This month, Doximity issued its Fifth Annual 2021 Physician Compensation Report. With the continued strain of the pandemic spanning 2021, the self-reported physician data reflected widespread burnout and early retirement, especially by female physicians. With respect to physician compensation, Doximity findings demonstrated:

  • While average doctor pay increased 3.8 percent between 2020 and 2021, there was a decline of real income compared to 2020 given the CPI 6.2% rate of inflation in 2021.
  • The top five metro areas with the highest physician pay were Charlotte, NC; St. Louis, MO; Buffalo, NY; Jacksonville, Florida; and, Orlando, Florida.
  • The top five metro areas with the lowest physician pay were Baltimore, MD; Providence, RI; San Antonio, TX; Washington, D.C.; and Boston, MA.
  • A widening gender pay gap of 28.2% this year, with female physicians making $122,000 less than male physicians in 2021.
  • Based on 2014-2019 data, Doximity estimates that over the course of a career, female physicians will earn over $2 million less than male physicians.

Specialties with the largest pay equity gaps between men and women are oral & maxillofacial surgery; allergy and immunology; ENT; pediatric nephrology; and thoracic surgery. Significantly, there is no one medical specialty where women earned the same or more than men in 2021. All specialties had a pay gap over 10%, except Pediatric Rheumatology (which had a gap of 7.9%). To compound matters, a recent Jama Network Open research letter found that physician residents who were mothers – compared to physician residents who were fathers – were more likely to be responsible for childcare or schooling (24.6% v. .8%), household tasks (31.4% v. 7.2%), to work primary from home (40.9% to 22%), and to reduce their work hours (19.4% to 9.4%). The study reflected the significant concern that these “short-term adjustments can have serious long-term repercussions as they may lead to lower earnings and negatively impact advancement.”

Doximity’s research also revealed that due to the pandemic, over 1% of physicians retired before expected, which is feared to strain an already tight labor market. The report also highlighted studies suggesting about half of doctors are considering an employment change due to the “COVID-related overwork.” The overwork also had a disproportionate impact on women physicians, with 25% of them reporting they are “considering early retirement” due to increased work during the pandemic.

This research reflects the importance of a physician/employer in any setting reflecting on the impact of the pandemic on its healthcare team. Moreover, the research shows continued pay equity deficits between female and male physicians, which may be exacerbated by the pandemic. Internal reflection on current pay practices to identify the factors contributing to it are critical to maintain top talent, improve morale amidst very difficult times and avoid wage and hour litigation.