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2021 rheumatology salary report: Income growth despite pandemic

Graphic - Rheumatology salary report 2021

The Medscape Rheumatologist Compensation Report 2021 offers valuable insights into rheumatology compensation trends in 2020 and the effects of COVID-19 on rheumatologists. While COVID-19 had a negative effect on rheumatology practices, the average rheumatologist salary grew and career satisfaction is high among rheumatologists.

Average rheumatologist salary grew in 2020

The average rheumatologist salary for specialists grew from $262,000 in 2019 to $276,000 in 2020. The fact that this number grew despite the pandemic points to the fact that rheumatologists are in consistently high demand.

Chart - how much did rheumatologists earn

Rheumatologists are in particularly high in demand in rural areas, which struggle to recruit physicians in this specialty. Dr. Pierre Moeser is a rheumatologist who works locum tenens in physician shortage areas. He decided to work locum tenens when he realized many people in rural areas weren’t getting the rheumatology care they needed.

“There are a lot of people out there who have never seen a rheumatologist. I saw there was a need nationally for this, so in 2018 I decided to expand the range of my services and closed my practice,” Dr. Moeser says.

The COVID effect on rheumatologists

Although the average rheumatologist salary grew in 2020, not every rheumatologist was financially unaffected. In fact, 42% of rheumatologists said they saw some decline in compensation in 2020, and 95% of these doctors said the reason they earned less was the COVID pandemic.

Chart - what caused rheumatologist income decline

However, despite this decrease for some rheumatologists, 58% of rheumatologists said they feel fairly compensated.

Chart - which physicians feel fairly compensated

On the bright side, 40% of survey respondents said they expected their salary to return to normal in the next year, and an additional 48% said it will recover within the next 2-3 years.

Rheumatologists’ workload in 2020

Surveyed rheumatologists said they saw 85 patients a week before the pandemic, and they saw an average of 77 patients a week in 2020.

Chart - average number of patients seen by rheumatologists before and during the pandemic

When rheumatologists weren’t seeing patients, they reported spending 15.2 hours a week on paperwork, which is slightly better than the 16.3 hours a week average across all physicians. On average, rheumatologists worked 47 hours a week in 2020, the same as before the pandemic.

Chart - time rheumatologists spend on paperwork and administration

Dr. Pierre Moeser says he prefers working locum tenens rheumatology, because he spends less time on paperwork and more time with patients.

“I work as much as I can with patients because that’s what I’m there for. I do all the consultations, I do all the referrals, or whatever is asked of me there, because that’s why I’m there,” he says.

The challenges of rheumatology

Nearly one quarter of respondents said that the most challenging part of their job is dealing with difficult patients, and one-fifth of respondents said that working with an EHR system is challenging. Eighteen percent of respondents struggled with rules and regulations, while 17% of respondents had a hard time with getting reimbursement and negotiating with Medicare and other insurers.

Chart - what is the most challenging part of a rheumatologist's job

The best part of rheumatology

In general, rheumatologists are happy with their chosen specialty. Eighty percent of respondents said that they’d still pick medicine if they were given the chance to start over with their careers. And, 90% of respondents said they’d still choose rheumatology.

Chart - percent of rheumatologist that would choose the same specialty

Nearly a third of respondents said that the most rewarding part of their job is being able to diagnose their patients’ medical problems, which makes them feel good at what they do. The next most rewarding aspect, according to respondents, is forming relationships with patients and experiencing how grateful patients are for the rheumatologists’ work. One quarter of respondents said this was the most rewarding aspect. Another rewarding part of rheumatology, according to 24% of respondents, is the sense that you’re making the world a better place and helping others feel better.

Chart - the most rewarding parts of a rheumatologist's job

Dr. Francis Nardella, another rheumatologist who works locum tenens in rural areas, described the gratitude he feels from his patients.

“At most places I work, both the people who I work with and the patients, are appreciative of having somebody there,” Dr. Nardella says.

Rheumatologists 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 rheumatology job opportunities.

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