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Before pandemic, rheumatologists saw small salary increase


COVID-19 has changed many things in the medical landscape as practices have closed, many physicians are transitioning to telemedicine, and EDs struggle to provide safe environments for their employees.

Survey: Physician compensation by specialty

Medscape’s latest physician survey, conducted from Oct. 4, 2019, to Feb. 10, 2020, illustrates what rheumatology looked like just before the coronavirus arrived.

Rheumatologists saw a small increase in average salary in 2020, rising from $259,000 in 2019 to $262,000, an increase of 1.16%. In comparison, average income for all specialists was $346,000 in this year’s survey, up by 1.5% from the $341,000 earned in 2019, Medscape reported. Male rheumatologists earned significantly more than women at $288,000 versus $240,000.

Prospects for next year, however, are grim. “We found out that we have a 10% salary decrease effective May 2 to Dec. 25. Our bonus will be based on clinical productivity, and since our numbers are down, that is likely to go away,” a pediatric emergency physician told Medscape.

Before the pandemic, 55% of rheumatologists felt they were fairly compensated. This was about average among the 29 specialties included in the survey, which ranged from nephrology at 44% to oncology, emergency medicine, and radiology at 67%.

Rheumatologists were more likely than the average physician to report that “having so many rules and regulations” was the most challenging part of their job, according to the survey. A similar number of rheumatologists said that “gratitude/relationships with patients” was the most rewarding part of the job at 27%.

When asked if they would choose medicine again, 79% of rheumatologists said yes, slightly more than the 77% for all physicians; 81% said that they’d choose rheumatology again.

The respondents were Medscape members who had been invited to participate. The sample size was 17,461 physicians, and compensation was modeled and estimated based on a range of variables across 6 years of survey data. The sampling error was ±0.74%.

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