The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly altered the job market for physicians, leading to the temporary reduction of both starting salaries and practice options for doctors, according to a survey released by Merritt Hawkins, a physician search provider that is part of AMN Healthcare Services Inc. (NYSE: AMN).
Merritt Hawkins’ 2020 Review of Physician and Advanced Practitioner Recruiting Incentives tracks a sample of 3,251 physician and advanced practitioner recruiting engagements that the firm conducted from April 1, 2019, to March 31, 2020.
The report suggests that the previously robust job market for physicians has softened since the emergence of Covid-19. 
“Over our 33-year history, most physicians had little difficulty finding a job opportunity, with multiple offers to choose from,” said Travis Singleton, an executive vice president with Merritt Hawkins/AMN Healthcare. “Today, we are seeing a growing number who are unemployed with a limited number of roles available. This is unprecedented.  Covid-19 essentially flipped the physician job market in a matter of 60 days.”
The report indicates that while Merritt Hawkins saw an increase in physician search engagements over the 12-month period ending March 31, the number of new search engagements since March 31 has declined by more than 30%. At the same time, the number of physicians contacting Merritt Hawkins about job opportunities has increased, creating an opportune market for those healthcare facilities seeking physicians.
The decrease in demand for doctors is likely to be temporary, the report indicates. The various underlying dynamics driving physician supply and demand remain — including a growing and aging population, a limited supply of newly trained physicians, and an aging physician workforce. Covid-19 will not permanently change these market conditions, and demand for physicians will begin to rebound before the end of the year, the report projects.
Merritt Hawkins’ report tracks physician starting salaries and other incentives based on data gathered mostly prior to the emergence of Covid-19. This data shows an average starting salary for family doctors of $240,000, compared to an average of $423,000 for radiologists, $464,000 for urologists, $640,000 for invasive cardiologists and $626,000 for orthopedic surgeons.   
Physician starting salaries are likely to decrease temporarily as a result of Covid-19, though it is difficult to project by how much, according to Singleton. The way physicians are compensated is also likely to change, with physician bonuses increasingly tied to their use of telehealth and with more physician reimbursements based on monthly payments rather than on average daily patient or work volumes.