Doctor Satisfaction – Are there any Happy Doctors out there?

By | May 14, 2013

This is a question that needs to be addressed especially when choosing your medical specialty.  During my journey to become a physician, I had doctor after doctor tell me to turn around, “cut my losses” and do something else.  Talk about discouraging—even into my 4th year of medical school.

Why would some of the best clinicians provide this advice?  Are they not happy with their decision to practice medicine or is it their specialty choice or the politics?

I recently came across an interesting survey and follow-up article regarding physician satisfaction. The number of physicians that are either unsatisfied with practicing medicine or would instantly choose a different medical specialty if they had the chance is remarkable.  Even more shocking are the number of doctors that would choose an entirely different profession!

Is this shocking?  YES, for the general population.  However, for most physicians this data is not surprising.

Does this happen in other fields and professions?  Maybe, but who cares. There is not another profession like medicine where every practitioner has committed 12+ years to an intense training regimen. That is a long time to stay committed. What usually goesunnoticed is that the decision to choose a medical specialty comes too early and is typically made without a lot of supporting experience.

When we all start out we have idealistic attitudes and philosophies on how we are going to help people. All first drafts of medical school essays look the same- covered in altruistic language and idealistic healthcare stylings of how doctors should care for the sick and heal the person as a whole. So, what happened?

Many physicians will tell you that they became hardened and discouraged somewhere in between the late nights in medical school or on call as a resident dealing with the arbitrary things that do not lead to improved patient outcomes.  And if that did not get to our young physicians it was probably the discouragement from more senior physicians regarding the challenges of private practice or the seemingly wide penetration of politics in all academic settings.

With all this negative input deflecting our attitudes and attention away from our original intentions, there are still a number of physicians that consider themselves happy with their current position and specialty.  Now, that is what we need to look at.

Data has been previously compiled by Practice Link.

Look at the table carefully. Keep in mind this is an elective survey and only represents a small number practicing physicians (3.5% of surveys sent out were returned) and there is not equal distribution across specialties.

There are various critiques of this data, however, the trends are interesting and expected based on conversations I have had with various specialists during my training.

Let’s open up a dialogue:

1. Is this what you or your colleagues experience or expected?

2. Is it useful?

3. Does it or should it influence your specialty decision?

Please post your answers to these questions below .