Published in the April 2011 issue of Today's Hospitalist
ARE HOSPITALISTS RECEIVING much more of their compensation in the form of incentives and bonuses?
According to data from the 2010 Today's Hospitalist Compensation & Career Survey, hospitalists reported receiving considerably more money from bonuses and incentives in 2010 than in the preceding year.
In 2010, all hospitalists responding to our survey said that on average, they received $48,500 in bonuses and incentives. The year before, that amount was a lot lower: $32,499. Both adult hospitalists and pediatric hospitalists reported similar gains in income from incentives.
What's behind this huge surge? For one, all hospitalists are now saying they receive at least some income in the form of bonuses and incentives.
According to our 2010 survey, none of the hospitalists who responded said they received no income from bonuses and incentives. In 2009, by contrast, 16% of hospitalists said they received no money from bonuses and incentives.
While bonuses are getting more popular, the data show that the biggest bonuses are getting bigger. On our 2010 survey, 14.7% of hospitalists said they earned $100,000 or more from bonuses and incentives, compared to only 7.8% who reported that amount in our 2009 survey.
Bonuses and work setting
The bonuses hospitalists receive vary significantly not only by who hospitalists work for, but where they work.
Perhaps not surprisingly, hospitalists working at universities and medical schools see the smallest bonus amounts ($28,134), while those working for local hospitalist groups bring in the biggest ($72,490).
Hospitalists working for bigger hospitals also tend to see bigger bonuses. Those at hospitals with fewer than 250 beds see bonuses of just over $45,000, while those working at hospitals with more than 250 beds see bonuses of $51,500. And hospitalists who do some work in the ICU tend to receive larger bonuses (nearly $54,000) than their colleagues who don't (nearly $38,000).
Sort the data by region, and you see that hospitalists in one region—the South—receive bigger bonuses than their colleagues. While hospitalists in other parts of the country reported receiving bonuses of about $45,000 or $46,000, their colleagues in the South reported receiving almost $57,000.
Bonuses and productivity
Typically, hospitalists report that the size of their bonus is tied to productivity. Hospitalists who see 21 or more patients per shift earn the most in bonuses ($72,430). Hospitalists who see 10 patients or less per shift, by comparison, earn just over $31,000.
And the more time hospitalists spend on nonpatient care duties, the smaller their bonuses. Hospitalists who spend no time on nonpatient care report receiving bonus dollars of just over $70,000; hospitalists who spend more than 20% of their time on nonpatient care receive half that much in bonuses.
The effect of experience and gender
Differences in bonus amounts emerge when you sort the data by hospitalist age and experience, but those differences aren't as big as you might expect—and they are sometimes counterintuitive.
When we sorted the data based on how many years hospitalists had been in their current jobs, for example, physicians who had been in their job for one to two years received just slightly less ($49,213) than physicians who had been in their job for three to five years ($50,924).
But when you look at data for physicians who had been in their jobs longer (three to 10 years), you see that more senior hospitalists receive smaller bonuses than their more junior colleagues. Our other survey data show that more experienced hospitalists are earning more money overall, but less of that pay is coming from bonuses. (We found that same anomaly when we looked at bonuses according to the number of years physicians worked as a hospitalist, not just in their current job.)
Finally, the gender gap that exists in overall hospitalist compensation also turns up when you look at the data for bonus pay. While male hospitalists earned an average of $48,886 in bonus money, their female counterparts earned $43,159, a difference of about 13%.