Why More and More Doctors are Rethinking Their Profession

Plus: why male doctors earn so much more than female doctors.

By: Melissa Romero

These days, it seems doctors just can't be pleased. Recent surveys have found that young doctors are not optimistic about the future of the healthcare industry and that general physicians are the unhappiest type of doctor out there. 

Now, the most recent study conducted by Medscape has found that physicians' incomes are falling, and given the chance to start over, almost half of doctors surveyed would not choose medicine as a career.       

Medscape interviewed more than 24,000 US physicians in 25 different specialities in the past year. Overall, the answers showed that dissatisfaction with medicine is growing. While last year's survey found that 69 percent of physicians would choose medicine as a career again, this year the number dropped to 54 percent.

And while it's probably not surprising that female doctors earn less than men, the gap is still substantial--male physicians are out-earning females by 40 percent. However, this can be owed to the field most female doctors choose; women are more prevalent in primary care and obstetrics and gynecology, which fall on the lower rung of the pay-scale ladder.

Overall, radiologists and orthopedic surgeons remain the highest-paid physicians for the second year in a row, making an average of $315,000 a year. Pediatricians earn the least, at $156,000, but that's a decent increase from $148,000 in 2010.

The good news? Primary-care physicians tend to be earning more, since there's been a shortage of them in recent years. In fact, rural parts of the country are the place to be if you're a primary-care doctor; they have the highest paid primary-care physicians in the country, since doctors there tend to perform more services than others. In the North Central region, which includes Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and the Dakotas, the average income was $234,000.

Surprisingly, although doctors are worried about their dwindling incomes, 46 percent said they discuss the cost of treatment with their patients "only occasionally"--and only if the patient raises the subject. Sixteen percent said they never discuss costs because they "don't believe it is appropriate or don't know the cost of the treatments."

As the researchers explain: "As medicine moves more and more to an employed model, most physicians feel their responsibility is to treat the patient's clinical problem. The cost issue is secondary. Most doctors don't believe it's their job to focus on that."

For more information and results, visit Medscape's website.