AAOS Bulletin - October, 2006

Orthopaedic surgeons in demand

One in three hospitals is actively recruiting for orthopaedic surgeons, and more than half are finding it a “very difficult” task indeed.

These are two findings from the recently released 2005 Survey of Hospital Physician Recruitment Trends and Review of Physician Recruitment Incentives conducted by Merritt, Hawkins & Associates (MHA), the nation’s leading physician search and consulting firm. This was MHA’s second survey of hospital recruiting trends and procedures and was intended to provide benchmarking data on the percentage of hospitals currently recruiting physicians, types of physicians being recruited and recruiting methods used. The last survey was conducted in 2002.

Orthopaedic surgeons ranked as the second most-sought-after physician group; only family practitioners were in greater demand (Table 1). Among respondents, more than one in four (27 percent) small hospitals, one in two (53 percent) medium hospitals and two in five (42 percent) large hospitals were searching for orthopaedic surgeons.

According to responding hospitals, orthopaedic surgeons were also among the most difficult specialty to recruit; 78 percent of respondents rated orthopaedic surgeons “very difficult” to recruit. Increases in demand for these services and a relatively limited supply of physicians combine to make recruiting in these fields difficult.

The survey was sent to 3,000 in-house hospital physician recruiters in 47 states in March 2005; results are based on 312 completed and returned surveys.

MHA’s analysis of its own records of physician search assignments found that nearly half (48 percent) were for physician groups during 2004–2005, while hospitals accounted for 19 percent of all assignments. Again, the demand for orthopaedic surgeons ranked high; MHA conducted 210 searches for orthopaedic surgeons, approximately the same number as in 2003–2004.

The average income offered to orthopaedic surgeons was $361,000, an increase from the average $330,000 offered last year. Only neurosurgeons were offered higher average incomes—$424,000, up from $420,000 in 2003–2004. Orthopaedists did best in the Southeast and Midwest, with average income offers of $370,000.

MHA did not break down incentive offers by specialty, but did report that incentive offers included relocation allowances, continuing medical education payments, health insurance, medical liability insurance, retirement and disability coverage. Each was offered in 80 percent or more of the searches conducted by MHA in 2004–2005. Less than half (46 percent) of the searches involved a signing bonus.

Top 10 Physician Specialties Being Recruited

Percent of Responding Hospitals Recruiting

Family Practitioner


Orthopaedic Surgeon




General Surgeon














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