The numbers are in from Medscape’s 2019 anesthesiologist compensation report, and they look good. Anesthesiologists are doing very well these days. They are the most highly compensated among all physician specialties and the total value of their compensation continues to rise.
According to the Bureau Of Labor and Statistics, there were more than 31,000 active anesthesiologists in the U.S. in 2018. The vast majority of them worked in private practices. Lower numbers worked in hospitals, outpatient care centers, and other clinics. Median pay in 2018 was $276,990 annually.
Those numbers are rather interesting when you compare them against the Medscape survey. For example, Medscape’s data shows a median annual salary of $386,000 in 2018. That number has climbed to $392,000 this year. Note that the differences between the Medscape and BLS numbers may be nothing more than a difference in how the BLS classifies workers. Medscape gets their numbers by surveying actual clinicians.
A Great Compensation Package
Focusing purely on the Medscape numbers, it’s clear that anesthesiologists enjoy excellent compensation. The specialty’s $392,000 median salary makes anesthesiology the highest paying among physician specialties. When compared against all medical specialties, anesthesiology compensation ranks ninth.
The Medscape numbers also reveal the following:
- Self-employed anesthesiologists earn $424,000 annually
- Employed anesthesiologists earn $369,000 annually
- Males earn $407,000; females earn $344,000
- 58% believe they are fairly compensated.
The disparities between self-employment/employment and male/female were not explained in a Beckers ASC Review article highlighting the Medscape data. More in-depth research is probably necessary to find the answers. At any rate, Medscape surveyed some 20,000 clinicians as part of their 2019 report.
Where Anesthesiologists Work
BLS numbers indicating that the vast majority of anesthesiologists jobs are in private practice is a bit misleading. That data only shows that some anesthesiologists are private practice owners who run businesses much the same way as family doctors operating private practices. As for where their work is actually performed, the hospital is the most common location.
Anesthesiologists may consult with patients in their own offices or at the hospital. But the nature of anesthesiology is such that the bulk of their work is done mainly in hospital surgical suites.
It is not unusual for an anesthesiologist to arrive at the hospital in the early morning hours. It is his or her responsibility to make sure everything relating to anesthesiology is ready to go for that morning’s procedures. Then the anesthesiologist meets with patients to prepare them for surgery. Clinicians are assisted by nurse anesthetists and others during the pre-op procedures.
During the actual surgery, it is the anesthesiologist’s responsibility to maintain proper levels of anesthesia and monitor the patient’s response to it. Things can change in an instant, so anesthesiologists must always be on their toes.
Characteristics of a Successful Anesthesiologist
Anesthesiologists must obviously be formally trained and licensed. They go through a typical medical school and residency program before practicing on their own. So yes, anesthesiologists have to excel academically. Studying to become an anesthesiologist is hard work requiring a considerable investment in time and effort.
Beyond academic performance, successful anesthesiologists tend to exhibit a number of characteristics. For example, they are detail oriented. They have to be. Administering anesthesia is complicated even on the best of days. In addition, they are skilled, generally calm, able to withstand pressure, and able to provide compassionate care to people who find themselves in a stressful situation.
It takes a lot to be a successful anesthesiologist, whether employed or operating a private practice. Anesthesiologists demand high compensation because theirs is a job that relatively few can do.