No doubt by now you’ve seen headlines in the healthcare trade press about the recent study in Anesthesiology that found a compensation gap between male and female anesthesiologists. The findings don’t surprise those of us who have been practicing in the anesthesia services field for years.
In summary, after adjusting for variables like experience, hours worked and type of employer, female anesthesiologists earned 7 percent less than their male counterparts in 2013, according to the study, which was funded by the American Society of Anesthesiologists, publisher of Anesthesiology, and conducted by the Rand Corp.
Medicine in general and anesthesiology in particular have been male-dominated professions historically. But medicine and anesthesiology are changing. The percentage of females and minorities in medicine is growing. Team-based, evidence-driven care is in. Maverick doctors who make medical decisions based on instinct alone are out.
Whatever gap exists between male and female anesthesiologists will dissipate because of those changes and because of new anesthesia care models. The new models of anesthesia care are team-based approaches that offer a mix of anesthesiologists and CRNAs, depending on the level of anesthesia service required by the hospital or ambulatory surgery center and its respective patient population.
At NorthStar, we offer five different team-based care models, ranging from all anesthesiologists to all CRNAs, with three models in between based on varying anesthesiologist-CRNA ratios. The compensation we pay to anesthesiologists and CRNAs is based on expertise, experience, regional wage differences and marketplace competition. It’s not based on gender or ethnic background or where you went to medical school or received your training.
As more hospitals and ASCs move to team-based anesthesia care models like these, whether it’s from NorthStar or on their own, compensation differences based on factors other than expertise, experience, regional wage differences and local marketplace competition will smooth out and eventually disappear. Hospitals and ASCs that pay anesthesiologists and CRNAs based on gender will be at a competitive disadvantage in their markets.
In fact, the study found that 40 percent of the anesthesiologists practicing in 2013 who were under 36 years of age were female compared with 26 percent in 2007. That trend also will help erase the pay gap between male and female anesthesiologists.
In just a few short years, we’ll look back at the study and consider its findings ancient healthcare history.