The average gastroenterologist salary grew by 12% on average in 2021, according to Medscape’s 2022 Gastroenterologist Compensation Report. Since experiencing a nearly $15,000 decline in average pay in 2020, the jump in earnings is especially encouraging. The annual compensation survey also found that frustration with rules, regulations, and paperwork remains high. Overall however, gastroenterologists say they are happy at work and find joy in helping their patients.
Gastroenterologist salary in 2021 was the 6th highest among the specialties surveyed, with an average annual income of $453,000.
This is a more than $40,000 pay increase from 2020’s average of $406,000. On average, the compensation of gastroenterologist’s rose about 12% year over year compared to the prior year report. Of the 26 specialties surveyed by Medscape, gastroenterology compensation growth was second highest, just under the 13% growth of otolaryngologist pay.
Effects of COVID on gastroenterologist pay
Despite the overall growth, not every gastroenterologist saw an increase in income over the last year. About one in five doctors reported that their pay shrank rather than grew. Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents cited the impacts of COVID-19 on institutions’ bottom line as the main driver due to job loss and/or a reduction in hours or patient volume.
Dr. Robert Brenner, who works locum tenens as a gastroenterologist full time, fared well through the pandemic.
“I know a lot of gastroenterologists who lost work because of COVID. I was very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time working with the right people. My employer was sensitive to my needs and shifted me over into straight hospital coverage, doing all inpatient coverage for the hospital instead of two-thirds outpatient, one-third inpatient.”
Average incentive bonus for gastroenterologists
A majority — about 57% — of survey respondents said they received an incentive bonus in 2021. The average incentive bonus for gastroenterologists was $74,000 in 2021, up from $60,000 the year prior.
A bonus hike of nearly 20% indicates a strong desire to foster goodwill with gastroenterologists, promote a positive work culture, and perhaps most importantly — retain talent.
Supplementary income for gastroenterologists
Nearly three gastroenterologists in 10 said they take on extra work to supplement their income, which is slightly less than physicians across the board (36%).
Of the 29% who pursue side hustles, the majority of gigs are medical related or medical moonlighting, which includes locum tenens. Only 3% of respondents earning supplemental income cite pursuing non-medical-related work.
Dr. Brennen says he earns enough working locum tenens to cover his financial needs. “I just work two weeks on two weeks off, enough to pay off the mortgage and put some money away. If everything goes well, I don’t plan to go back to a permanent job for the rest of my career. I’m sort of semi-retired,” he says.
Just over half of the gastroenterologists surveyed believe they are fairly compensated, and despite 47% of colleagues desiring more pay, a full 95% would choose the same specialty again if they were given the chance. However, when compared to physicians of other specialties, a higher percentage of gastroenterologists still feel underpaid.
Time spent on paperwork and administration
One oft-overlooked perk of working as a gastroenterologist is that your week isn’t mired in paperwork the way other specialties can be. Gastroenterologist respondents report spending 14.3 hours per week on average on paperwork and administration.
This is slightly below the average across all physicians, 15.5 hours per week, but well below the higher end of the scale. Infectious disease doctors report spending nearly 20 hours weekly on entering electronic health records.
The most challenging parts of a gastroenterologist’s job
Not every day is sunshine, ulcers that are easy to remove, and patients with healthy guts. Gastroenterologists experience some frustrations on the job. Having to manage excessive rules and regulations frustrated 21% of respondents in 2021, edging out difficulties in getting fair reimbursements from insurers, including Medicare, as the chief concern.
Difficult patients and having to work long hours round out the top four parts of the job cited as most challenging.
What gastroenterologists find most rewarding
Despite the frustrations, gastroenterologists still find a lot to love about their jobs. High satisfaction is derived from the sense of being very good at their jobs — nearly one-third of respondents enjoy finding answers and making diagnoses.
Patient interactions can be challenging at times, but the gratitude received and relationships built are a net positive for gastroenterologists. Twenty-nine percent of survey respondents find these relationships to be rewarding overall. Knowing they are making the world a better place and making good money are other joys found through work.
Dr. Brenner says the high pay — and flexibility of his locum tenens lifestyle — makes staying in gastroenterology attractive. “Way down the road, I can see working one week a month to earn money to put towards travel. As long as I’m healthy, I see the potential of doing something like this indefinitely — perhaps just gradually less.”
Gastroenterologists are in high demand as locum tenens physicians. Give us a call at 954.343.3050 to learn more or view today’s locum tenens gastroenterologists job opportunities.
Chart images from Medscape.com