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Business & Profession Professional Development, Other

Regrets, I’ve Had a Few…

Ophthalmology topped the tables in Medscape’s Physician Lifestyle Report (1) but things don’t look quite so rosy in the company’s Compensation Report.  Twenty-four thousand US physicians across 25 specialties filled in the questionnaire, covering compensation, workload and satisfaction with their career choice (2).

At an average annual salary of $291,000, ophthalmologists’ earnings were mid-table, coming tenth out of the 25 specialties. News was better in terms of pay raises, up by 5 percent since 2013 – the third highest percentage increase behind 15 percent for rheumatologists, and 6 percent for the general surgery and for psychiatry and mental health specialists. Even so, just 42 percent of ophthalmologists felt fairly compensated, ranking a lowly 19th on the list. Perhaps this explains why ophthalmologists were near the top of the pile (fifth) for offering potentially money-spinning new ancillary services: 26 percent of ophthalmologists ticked that box.

In terms of long working hours in front of patients, just over half (51 percent) of the ophthalmologists surveyed spend over forty hours a week seeing patients; only eight other specialties reported lower percentages.

When asked if they had their time again, would they choose a career in medicine, 56 percent of ophthalmologists replied that they would (Figure 1), coming fifteenth out of the twenty-five specialties. Those practicing internal medicine were the most positive about their career choice, whereas plastic surgeons were the least positive, with scores of 68 and 41 percent, respectively. However, when asked about whether they would choose the same specialty again, ophthalmology rises again to third on the list, with 61 percent responding with yes. Astonishingly, those practicing internal medicine fell to the bottom of the list, with just over one in four (27 percent) responding in the affirmative.

Figure 1. The proportion of ophthalmologists satisfied with their income, career and specialty choice, and overall (mean) values. Maximum and minimum values for all specialties are represented by the triangles.

The picture painted is that ophthalmologists are reasonably well compensated and spend the regular work day seeing patients, meaning that administration is done out of hours. Not far off half, on reflection, would have preferred to have done something else than go to medical school in their twenties. Despite this, a firm majority are happy that they chose ophthalmology as their specialty. Ophthalmologists don’t have the least or the greatest regret; they come somewhere in the middle.

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  1. Medscape Ophthalmologist Lifestyle Report 2014, accessed May 1st, 2014.
  2. Medscape Physician Compensation Report 2014, accessed May 1st, 2014.
About the Author
Mark Hillen

I spent seven years as a medical writer, writing primary and review manuscripts, congress presentations and marketing materials for numerous – and mostly German – pharmaceutical companies. Prior to my adventures in medical communications, I was a Wellcome Trust PhD student at the University of Edinburgh.

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