Newly hired nurse anesthetists offered more money than primary-care docs

Some primary-care doctors apparently are beginning to feel like "second-class citizens" compared to certified nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), who in 2009 were offered average salaries of $189,000 by medical centers, compared with $173,000 for the doctors. And physician recruiting and consulting firm Merritt Hawkins & Associates, who compiled those numbers, believes that such a divide will only be closed minimally for 2010, which could add to the growing shortage of primary-care physicians, reports

Merritt Hawkins & Associates staffing expert Kurt Mosley said that 2009 was the fourth consecutive year that CRNAs were offered more money than primary-care docs. The firm expects CRNAs to receive average salary offers of $186,000 for this year, compared with $178,000 for primary care-doctors.

Mosley pointed to a high rate of surgeries as one of the catalysts behind the increase for CRNAs, but warned that such a trend will only discourage medical students from pursuing primary care. 

"The demand for primary-care doctors will increase twofold when health reform happens and millions of more Americans have access to healthcare," Mosley said. "Who is going to triage these patients? It's not the neurologist or the pulmonologist. It has to be the primary-care doctor." 

The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, on the other hand, sees nothing wrong with such projections, and stated that such payment for CRNAs is fair. 

"Once nurses and physicians arrive at anesthesia training, we use the same textbooks and same cases," said Lisa Thiemann, senior director of professional services with the AANA. "The training is not too different between the two groups. We all deliver anesthesia the same way." 

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