For doctors who specialize in surgical procedures and are educated and trained in the diagnosis and preoperative, operative, and postoperative management of patient care, 2020 was a tough year in terms of compensation. Like other medical specialties, general surgeons’ practices were not immune to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, including office closings and a decline in patient volume.

The Medscape General Surgeon Compensation Report 2021 details some of this financial impact. Key findings from the report include:

  • A large majority (90%) of general surgeons who saw a drop in income cited COVID-19-related issues like job loss, fewer hours, and fewer patients.
  • More than one-half (56%) of general surgeons who earned an incentive bonus achieved more than three-quarters of their potential annual payout, but that was down from 63% from the year prior.
  • General surgeons achieved 62% of their potential bonus, which is smaller than physicians’ overall average at 68%.
  • Only 42% of general surgeons who suffered financial- or practice-related ill effects due to the pandemic expected their income to return to normal by the end of this year.
  • General surgeons spent more time on average this year—16.3 hours versus 15.8 hours from the previous year—on medical-related work outside of patient visits, including time devoted to paperwork, EHR documentation, administrative and managerial work, participation in professional organizations, and clinical reading.
  • General surgeons are seeing an average decline of 13% in patient visits, from 49 per week the previous year to 43 per week in the current year.
  • Almost one-half (45%) of general surgeons believe that a drop in patient volume of up to one-quarter is going to be permanent.

The report also detailed some positives:

  • Despite 49% of general surgeons reporting some decline in compensation, average general surgeon income was about the same in 2020, at $373,000, as it was in 2019, at $364,000.
  • General surgeons were ranked 12th in terms of average compensation against more than 29 total specialties.
  • The average payment among general surgeons who received a bonus was 12% of total salary, up 1% over the previous year.
  • More than one-half (60%) of general surgeons said they feel fairly compensated. This is up slightly over the previous year’s 58%.

Of the 17,903 respondents across more than 29 specialties cited in the report, 61% identified as male and 36% female. All respondents were required to be currently practicing in the United States to be eligible to complete the 10-minute online survey.