Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A Nice article from the SCCM - Critical Care Salaries

The careers of critical care professionals have been shaped significantly by changes in reimbursement methods, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) rulings, a shortage of trained critical care personnel staff and advances in technology. To assist the critical care community in managing the challenges of an ever-changing environment, the Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM) conducted its first comprehensive study of the compensation of these professionals. Results and analyses of the survey were published in Compensation of Critical Care Professionals, which is available from SCCM.

The survey studied four different critical care professional groups: physicians, nurses, pharmacists and respiratory therapists. It compared the salaries and benefits of these professionals while taking into account numerous factors, including gender, geographic location, experience level, hospital type and location, certifications and area of specialty.

The physician section of the study examined eight critical care positions in detail. The responsibilities associated with different positions within the physician group varied drastically and resulted in different compensation levels. The average base salary range for physicians stretched from $147,059 to $263,068 a year. The range proved the largest variation in salary among all the surveyed groups.

In addition to surveying base salaries, the study also examined total annual compensation for critical care professionals to provide a more complete picture of the monetary compensation received by the surveyed professionals. The biggest differences between total annual compensation and base salary in dollar amount and in percentage was in the physician group. Among the physicians surveyed, the average base salary was $195,500 a year, while total annual compensation averaged $226,895 a year. More than 13.8% of the group’s annual monetary compensation came from sources other than base salary.

Many factors influence the compensation of critical care professionals, and a comprehensive collection of easily quantified factors was examined in the study. Some of the factors investigated, such as years of post-training experience and primary place of employment, had strong, positive correlations with compensation in all positions. Other factors showed differing influences on compensation for various positions, producing negative and positive correlations. Data collected on the critical care staff physician position showed that as physicians gained post-training critical care experience, their average salaries increased until they gained 20 years of experience or more. Then, the average salary decreased from $263,462 a year for 15 to 20 years of experience, to an average of $254,605 a year. Using the same example, the study found that critical care staff physicians employed at a university or university-affiliated hospital earned an average salary of $168,112 a year, while critical care staff physicians employed by a non-university or non-university-affiliated hospital reported an average salary of $239,904 a year.

Unlike monetary compensation, employee benefits related less to an individual’s demographic traits and experience level and more to key characteristics of the workplace. Consequently, benefits were not examined within the context of the respondent’s positions. Instead, they were considered in terms of significant workplace factors, such as primary place of employment and number of hospital beds. The study revealed that the greatest percentage, 30%, of all respondents received between $1,000 and $2,499 a year from their employer as a contribution to their continuing medical education (CME) allowances. While it is a small sample, almost 41% of physicians employed by a non-critical care, single-specialty practice group received an allowance of $1,000 to $2,400 a year, and only 25.3% of those employed by a critical care specialty group received the same CME allowance.

Compensation levels in the critical care community then were compared to the compensation of those who were in the same professional role, but not employed in critical care. Data from the American Medical Group Association’s (AMGA) 18th annual compensation and productivity survey suggested that critical care anesthesiologists and critical care non-trauma surgeons were under-compensated when compared to their colleagues in general fields. This raised questions and may require more study because sample sizes were not the same.

Iqbal Ratnani, MD, an intensivist at Memorial Hermann Health Care System in Houston, Texas, participated in the survey. He said that while critical care medicine involves stress and long hours, the reward is more than monetary compensation. “I’m not sure that salaries ever compensate for that adequately,” he said. “But the best part of the job is the satisfaction of helping people. You see a patient in the (emergency room) who you think will die, but 24 hours later that same patient is sitting up in bed eating. Literally, you are able to see that you saved someone’s life.”

The Society’s survey yielded reasonable estimates and useful analyses of the compensation levels for critical care professionals. However, many factors contribute to a critical care professional’s compensation, such as the individual’s unique qualifications and the employer’s approach to compensation and rewards. Some of those factors are difficult to measure and even harder to study quantitatively. Therefore, data and analyses from this study should be used in conjunction with other sources that also provide information about monetary compensation and benefits for critical care professionals.

Practitioners may use the study’s findings to find how their salaries and benefits compare to those of practitioners with similar job titles and experience levels. Employers may use the findings to ensure that they offer competitive salaries and benefits.

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