Team of mixed-races team of professional males and females doctors in hospital. Indoor. International group of medics in medical masks. Multi ethnic physicians in gowns and uniforms in clinic.

For the first time, nurse practitioners (NPs) were the most requested search engagement in Merritt Hawkins’ 2021 Review of Physician and Advanced Practitioner Recruiting Incentives survey. Family practice physicians, who had held the top spot for 14 years in a row, dropped to second on the list. In line with the increased demand, the average starting salary for NPs increased 12% year-over-year, from $125,000 to $140,000. 

The Review sampled 2,458 permanent physician and advanced practitioner search assignments between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021. Search assignments for advanced practitioners, which include NPs as well as certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) and physician assistants (PAs), made up 18% of Merritt Hawkins’ search assignments, a jump from 13% the prior year. This is the highest percentage in the study’s 28 years.

There was also an increased demand for physician specialists, as 64% of search engagements were for positions such as psychiatrists, gastroenterologists, and radiologists, among others. Conversely, there has been a decline in the demand for primary care doctors, which made up only 18% of search engagements in 2021, down from 20% in 2020 and 22% in 2019. This is likely due to the fact that younger adults are starting to use urgent centers and retail clinics, which are often staffed by PAs and NPs, in lieu of traditional primary care.