cardiologist using a stethescope on a female patient
Specialty Spotlights February 21, 2022

By Debra Wood, contributor

Opportunities Abound for Cardiologists

Cardiology jobs tied to heart disease rates, COVID and more

Just as the heart is resilient, so are the cardiovascular professionals who care for a population needing more medical services, keeping demand for cardiologists high, with workforce shortages projected.

“Care of the [cardiovascular] patient is complex and evolving,” said Cathie Biga, MSN, RN, FACC, president and CEO of Cardiovascular Management of Illinois in Woodridge and co-chair of American College of Cardiology Practice Administration Committee. “The demand will continue to outstrip the supply. However, the guidelines and tools are also evolving, leading to better care and prevention of heart disease.”

Find locum cardiology jobs across the U.S.

A Cardiology Shortage

The deficits in noninvasive cardiology, invasive cardiology, and interventional cardiology are part of a larger physician shortage, reported the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), which predicts a shortfall of as many as 124,000 physicians by 2034, with as many as 13,400 medical specialists.

In “the latest study by AAMC, 60 percent of all cardiologists are over 55, and by 2030, we could be short by 120,000,” Biga said. “It is projected that we will need 18 percent more [cardiologists] annually between 2013 and 2025.”

By 2034, people 65 and older will account for 42 percent of the need for physicians. They will require 407,300 physicians by that date. More and more people are living with chronic heart conditions.

“Despite amazing advances, [heart disease] remains the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States,” Biga said. “In addition, the increase in obesity and other CV risk factors results in the need for more cardiologists.”

Efforts to improve access to care also could increase the need for physicians to care for underserved populations, according to the AAMC. And as more people sign up with Affordable Care Act policies, demand increases for cardiologists and other physicians, because patients have insurance coverage.

High Demand for Cardiac Specialists & Subspecialists

Within cardiology, subspecialties exist, including advanced heart failure and transplant cardiology, congenital heart disease cardiology, pediatric cardiology, electrophysiology, and advanced cardiovascular imaging.

“In reality, these subspecialties are becoming sub-sub specialized, referred to as ultra-specialization,” Biga said. “The recent waves in transformational technology in structural heart disease will continue to shape the future.”

Cardiovascular interventionalists have begun performing alternatives to surgery, including transcatheter mitral valve repairs and transcatheter aortic valve replacement.

The recruiters at Staff Care report that demand for locum cardiology physicians remains high in many specialties, including:
• Interventional and invasive cardiologists;
• Non-invasive cardiologists;
• Cardiovascular and vascular surgeons; and
• Cardiac anesthesiologists

Locum tenens employers are seeking cardiologists for both inpatient and outpatient positions. Some offer 8-hour shifts and others 10-hour shifts, plus call coverage. Some locum positions also exist for cardiology nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs).

NPs and PAs are needed to fill some of the voids in access to medical care, according to the AAMC report--including in cardiovascular care.

“The need for (NPs and PAs) continues to escalate as team-based care is implemented,” Boga said. “They also help with primary calls in many locations.”

COVID-19’s Toll on Cardiology

Confounding the need for cardiologists is that patients with COVID-19 often experience cardiac complications, and for many patients with cardiovascular conditions, treatments have been delayed due to staff or bed shortages as hospitals deal with COVID-19 surges.

Many patients held off seeking care for cardiac conditions during the pandemic, reported the American College of Cardiology in 2021.

“The pandemic may have had an indirect toll on patients with cardiovascular disease, potentially due to the avoidance of hospitals out of fear of exposure to the virus, increased health care system strain, and the deferral of semi-elective procedures and care,” said Rishi K. Wadhera, MD, MPP, MPhil, a cardiologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston, in a statement.

The pandemic has driven greater demand for cardiology services and increased burnout rates among cardiology clinicians. A 2020 American College of Cardiology survey comparing burnout rates before and during the pandemic found that the prevalence of burnout among cardiovascular professionals nearly doubled, from 20 percent to 38 percent. That survey also found COVID-19 to be a key factor in cardiovascular professionals thinking about leaving their cardiology jobs, retiring early, or reducing work hours.

Cardiologists Salaries

Shortages in cardiology have led to high average salaries for these physicians, whether they are in a full-time practice or working as a locum tenens cardiologist.

Several recent compensation reports have shown rising salaries for cardiologists. Doximity’s 2021 Physician Compensation Report reported that cardiologists earned an average of $537,777 in 2021, which was a 2 percent increase from 2020.

The Medscape Cardiologist Compensation Report 2021 reported average annual compensation of $459,000 for cardiologists, which represented a 5 percent increase over the prior year. Sixty-one percent of cardiologists responding to the survey said they felt fairly compensated, and 92 percent would choose cardiology again. The report also found about 14 percent of cardiologists are women.

The Merritt Hawkins’ 2021 Review of Physician and Advanced Practitioner Recruiting Incentives breaks down annual starting salaries by subspecialties, with interventional cardiologists being offered the highest average starting salaries of all physicians in 2020-2021, at $611,000, as compared to $446,000 for noninvasive cardiology jobs.

Current assignments for locum tenens cardiologists with Staff Care are paying up to $250 per hour, including salaries and reimbursements for housing, meals, and incidentals.

While cardiologists and other cardiovascular professionals remain in high demand, salaries will stay elevated and locum tenens assignments will continue to offer opportunities for clinicians with the right credentials.

To learn more about locum tenens cardiology jobs, contact a Staff Care career advisor today.

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