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Analysis

Most Docs Are Happy with Their Careers, Personal Lives

By John Commins  
   March 20, 2019

A national study of more than 5,000 physicians indicates that most are generally happy and have high life satisfaction.

A new study commissioned by the American Academy of Family Physicians finds that most physicians are happy with their careers and personal lives.

Despite the spate of alarming headlines about physician burnout, a survey of more than 5,000 physicians currently practicing found that 71% reported being happy in their professional lives, and 59% said they were satisfied with their lives in general.

"Practicing medicine is a profoundly rewarding profession," said Clif Knight, MD, senior vice president of education for AAFP.

"As with any job, it's important to find meaningful work-life integration," Knight said. "The AAFP has developed resources to help improve physician well-being while we are simultaneously fighting to reduce administrative burden, one of the key factors physicians cite as a barrier to happiness at work."

The survey, compiled with the healthcare staffing firm CompHealth, found that workplace happiness "is grounded in developing positive relationships with family members, friends, coworkers and patients."

"Physician burnout is a real issue that has dominated the industry for a lot of years. With this survey we wanted to take a deeper look at what drives workplace happiness, and why," said Lisa Grabl, president of CompHealth.

"We found that many physicians still take great joy in the practice of medicine and discovered areas where administrators and physicians alike can work together to further increase physician happiness," she said.

The survey found that:

  • Relationships matter. Physicians with a lot of friends at work reported high life satisfaction, while physicians with no friends at work only had 39% report they had high life satisfaction.
     
  • Lack of control and excess paperwork make physicians unhappy. Work issues such as lack of control (72%), clerical burdens (71%) and emotional exhaustion (69%) detracted from medical providers’ happiness. Specific tasks such as administrative duties (28%) also limited workplace happiness.
     
  • Lack of time with patients may be another contributing factor for physician unhappiness. Fifty-five percent of physicians reported time available for individual patients has declined since they started practice. However, 44% reported that quality of patient care had improved since they began practice.

“We found that many physicians still take great joy in the practice of medicine and discovered areas where administrators and physicians alike can work together to further increase physician happiness.”

John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.

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KEY TAKEAWAYS

A survey of more than 5,000 physicians currently practicing found that 71% reported being happy in their professional lives, and 59% said they were satisfied with their lives in general.

Lack of control, too much paperwork, and not enough face time with patients are big contributors to physician unhappiness.


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