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Family Practice Docs Upset That Some Nurses Earn More

Submitted by Admin on March 14, 2010, 11:03 am
certified nurse anesthetist

An article on CNNMoney.com reports "Some nurses paid more than family doctors" - and family doctors don't seem to be very happy about that:

From CNNMoney.com

"Despite the growing shortage of family doctors in the United States, medical centers last year offered higher salaries and incentives to specialist nurses than to primary care doctors, according to an annual survey of physicians' salaries.

Primary care doctors were offered an average base salary of $173,000 in 2009 compared to an average base salary of $189,000 offered to certified nurse anesthetists, or CRNAs, according to the latest numbers from Merritt Hawkins & Associates, a physician recruiting and consulting firm.

And the firm's projections for 2010 indicate that the average base salary for family physicians will be about $178,000 compared to $186,000 for CRNAs.

CRNAs are advanced practice nurses who administer anesthesia to patients. An important distinction between CRNAs and anesthesiologist is that when anesthesia is administered by a nurse anesthetist, it is still recognized as the practice of nursing rather than a practice of medicine."

And why is it necessarily wrong that a CRNA earns more than a Family Practice doctor? The entire premise of CNNMoney's article is disingenuous and intentionally inflammatory. They're comparing apples to oranges instead of apples to apples while simultaneously demeaning nurses by implying that all doctors should earn more than nurses regardless of specialty!

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA) are advanced practice specialty nurses who typically have extensive critical care experience in addition to a Master's degree in Nursing and sometimes a Nursing Doctorate degree, and they've been providing anesthesia care to patients for over a century, starting with their care of Civil War casualties.

Every year CRNAs provide services to over 22 million surgical, obstetrical and trauma patients in the USA. They are qualified to dispense all kinds of anesthetics, work in all types of practice setting, and provide care for all sorts of procedures, from open heart surgery to pain management programs. [Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA): Could You Make the Grade?]

CNNMoney's article goes on to report that many Family Practice doctors are "starting to feel like "second-class citizens" because some nurses earn more than they do:

"Looking at these compensation trends, the biggest concern for the nation's health care system is how to encourage more medical students to pick primary care as their specialty at a time when the nation is already facing a shortage of about 60,000 primary care doctors."

There's lots more in the article if you can stomach reading it: Full CNNMoney Article.

According to a survey published in JAMA in September 2008, only 2% of fourth-year medical students plan to work in primary care after graduation. Is it worthwhile to fight the trend?

Nurse practitioners can provide the same primary care services that physicians provide, including performing physical exams; diagnose and treat common acute illnesses and injuries; provide immunizations; manage high blood pressure, diabetes, and other chronic problems; order and interpret X-rays and other lab tests; and counsel patients on disease prevention and health care options.

The U.S. could save as much as $8.75 billion annually if Nurse Practitioners were used appropriately in the place of physicians according to one study. Nurse Practitioners not only meet basic health care needs in rural areas and inner cities -- sites not adequately served by physicians -- but deliver quality primary care to other under-served populations, such as children in school settings and the elderly. Some NPs have independent practices and can be reimbursed by Medicare, Medicaid, or other third parties. [Nurse Practitioner Career Opportunities Growing]

Mounting studies show that the quality of Nurse Practitioner care is equal to, and at times better than, comparable services by physicians, and often lower cost. So, perhaps the biggest concern for the nation's health care system should be how to encourage more nurses to become Nurse Practitioners rather than trying to convince more medical students to pick primary care!

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