How to Choose the Right Gastroenterology Job

Having limited options can make job searches difficult, but sometimes having a wealth of opportunities in your field can be just as challenging. Just ask George Akra, director of recruiting for internal medicine subspecialties at AMN Healthcare, who notes that many gastroenterologists in the job market are struggling to make the decision about where to practice.

“Gastroenterology has by far the most jobs right now among our internal medicine subspecialties,” Akra said. “They are available in different settings: private groups, including some with partnerships, a lot of hospital employed positions, academic positions, etc. Candidates can find partnerships with a buy-in, partnerships with no buy-in required, general GI (gastrointestinal), as well as gastroenterology jobs that will require advanced procedures like ERCPs and EUSs.”

With so many gastroenterology jobs available in the market, how can doctors narrow down opportunities and make the best decision?

It requires taking the time to prioritize which factors matter most, including compensation, professional development and quality of life, according to Akra. Each opportunity should also be weighed on how it will fit the physician’s needs over the long-term.

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Salaries For Gastroenterology Jobs

Due to the high demand in the field, a gastroenterologist starting salary could pay up to $550,000 or $600,000, with some approaching $700,000, Akra noted. More experienced GI practitioners can earn in the realm of $750,000-$800,000.

“The salary range for a gastroenterologist will often depend on location; some of the major metro areas that are more desirable may not pay as much as a smaller community,” Akra said. “Sometimes it is the more remote communities that are paying the biggest salaries. But places and practices are trying to differentiate themselves in other ways, as well.”

Employers Getting Creative to Attract Candidates

“Gastroenterology can be a tough specialty to fill; these practitioners have always been in demand, but we’ve definitely seen an increase in recent years. One issue is that many practicing gastroenterologists are older and closer to retirement, with more than half over the age of 55. And as the population ages, there is also more need for this subspecialty as people live longer and have GI conditions that need diagnosed and treated.”

“We worked with one owner of a private gastroenterology practice in a small city in Ohio who worked very hard to differentiate himself. In fact, he has eliminated call; he’s the only one I know to do so,” said Akra. “Recently, he also created a partnership opportunity with no buy-in required. Several candidates were interested because he made that change.”

“A solo doctor has the ability to make decisions like that, however, many can’t do that,” he acknowledged. He added that some practices can have open GI positions for several months, and might need to hire locum tenens providers while they continue seeking the right candidate.

Ultimately, a positive work environment offering a good mix of work and lifestyle benefits can attract and retain the right candidate, to the benefit of both parties.

’How Do I Choose?’ The Dilemma Facing GI Candidates

“I was working with an international candidate recently who was overwhelmed about what to do in his job search. There are so many options. He didn’t have any geographical ties to any one place or region, so he could essentially consider all the gastroenterology jobs across the U.S.  So he was asking for advice about how to choose,” Akra recalled.

“We often recommend that a candidate make a priority list in order to focus in on what they really need, not just what looks good at the moment. I also try to get them to keep the list of potential employers small.”

“Residents often see all the opportunities and feel that they have to apply to as many jobs as possible. But more is not always better,” he continued. “If someone knows what they are looking for in terms of criteria, we encourage them to narrow their search. Ideally, look seriously at just two or three jobs; do your due diligence, ask questions, involve your loved ones and then go with your gut feeling.”

“Don’t feel like you need to look at 10 jobs; it can be confusing. Keep the focus as narrow as you can based on your known priorities,” Akra explained.

Key Factors to Consider with Any GI Job Opportunity

“Experienced gastroenterologists usually have a better idea of what they are looking for in a new job,” Akra noted. “They may want a change of pace in terms of hours working or on call, or may want to find a different practice model with less administrative responsibilities. This is especially true as they get closer to retirement.”

“On the other hand, residents tend to put a tremendous amount of emphasis on geographical location for their first gastroenterology job. Starting salaries are also high on their list of deciding factors. We encourage them to look at the entire compensation package and long-term earning potential, including sign-on bonus and the production model—whether it is RVUs or collection-based. They should ask about patient volume, growth potential and other factors.”

All gastroenterology physicians should ask about the call schedule and other situations that can impact their job satisfaction, said Akra. “It is somewhat the norm in this specialty to have a 1-in-3 or 1-in-4 call schedule, so a practice or hospital that can offer something like a 1-in-10 call schedule is very attractive.”

Of course, candidates will also want to take their loved ones and family life into consideration.

“One physician we were working with is married to another doctor and they had been living in a big city. But with two young kids and a baby on the way, they were looking for an opportunity for her to stay home and him to have more time with the family. This opened up more possibilities in locations for them to consider, and factors like call schedule really came into play,” Akra said.

Some gastroenterologists may be interested in a position that includes the opportunity to teach in a fellowship program. Other key factors to consider will include the work schedule, the organizational culture and the work atmosphere, the support staff and the efficiency of the actual setup.

“Many gastroenterologists prefer to have at least two rooms going, so they can move from one procedure to the other without having to wait for a patient to be prepped. They love efficiency, and would love to do as many scopes as they can,” Akra noted.

Making The Final Decision

“If a candidate is being seriously considered for a gastroenterology job, he or she will get invited to come for an on-site visit. The physician will get to meet the staff, experience the work culture and see the setup. We also try to ensure that their significant other accompanies them on the first interview, so they can check out the community together,” Akra said.

These visits will help all parties decide if the job is the right fit.

Whether you are a new GI resident or fellow, or a physician with a number of years in the field, an experienced physician search consultant from AMN Healthcare can help narrow your job search and talk through each opportunity based on factors that mean the most to you. When your decision is made, you’ll also have the support of our team to ensure a smooth transition to your new gastroenterology practice.

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