Nurse anesthetists’ pay comparable to PCPs’

Don’t look now but nurse anesthetist pay is comparable to primary care physicians, despite differences in years of education between the two professions.

Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) are making an average salary of $189,000 year, according to the most recent Review of Physician and CRNA Recruiting Incentives, issued by Merritt Hawkins & Associates. Compare that to the average salary offer made to: family physicians ($173,000), internists ($186,000), and pediatricians ($171,000), according to the report.

Primary care doctors must complete four years of college, four years of medical school and three years of residency for a total of 11 years. CRNAs must complete a four-year nursing program, then complete a two to three year master’s program in anesthesiology for a total of six to seven years.

Phil Miller of Merritt Hawkins says, “The salary offers in our survey generally are somewhat below the average income of physicians as shown in surveys such as the one compiled by the Medical Group Management Association. Our numbers indicate what you have to offer to persuade a physician to come to a practice. Based on their level of effort, they often can make more.”

That’s not to say there is no demand for primary care doctors, however. Compared to 2005-2006 salaries, this year’s crop of family physicians, internists, and pediatricians saw an increase in salary of 19 percent, 15 percent, and 13 percent, respectively. Specialists who made the most gains in salary were hospitalists, orthopedic surgeons, neurologists, and cardiologists.

Signing bonuses from hospitals, medical groups, and other organizations, have also become the norm, according to the report. They’ve been on a steady increase over the past 10 years. Signing bonuses were offered in 85 percent of the recruitment searches conducted by the company, with bonuses in 2008-2009 averaging $24,850, up from $20,000 in 2006-2007, and $14,030 in 2004-2005.

Physician searches that included a signing bonus

Source for both: Merritt Hawkins & Associates. 2009 Review of Physician and CRNA Recruiting Incentives