Most doctors are satisfied with their jobs despite eroding respect, survey finds

By John Murphy, MDLinx
Published February 23, 2018

Key Takeaways

More than three-fourths of physicians (76%) are satisfied with their current position when factors such as salary, benefits, and quality and quantity of work are included, according to a new survey.

“It is still a profession that I love and get paid to do,” said a general surgeon from Massachusetts. “I also love the change I can make in my small area of the world.”

Of the 76% of satisfied physicians, 23% reported they’re very satisfied, and 53% said they’re somewhat satisfied.

Only 13% of physicians feel either unsatisfied (11%) or very unsatisfied (2%) with their job. Eleven percent of respondents are in between—neither satisfied or unsatisfied, according to our survey.

This nationwide survey, conducted by M3 Global Research in August 2017, received responses from 1,150 physicians, including primary care physicians and many types of specialists.

What part is unsatisfying?
Not every job is perfect, of course. When asked to name the one aspect of their work that’s least satisfying, the largest portion of respondents pointed to salary (25%).

Other less-than-gratifying aspects include: working hours (17%); being on call too often (16%); type of work, including such tasks as patient management, administrative duties, teaching, or research (11%); and relationships with administration, coworkers, or staff (8%).

Perhaps surprisingly, as many as 15% of respondents reported no dissatisfying aspects of the job.

How’s your social standing?
Although the general public still respects physicians overall, that respect has been steadily eroding, many respondents said.

“MDs no longer get the same respect as we used to, and most patients think a WebMD printout is smarter than my consultation,” said a Tennessee internist.

Still, 39% of respondents report being somewhat satisfied with the social status of physicians in the United States, and 18% feel very satisfied. On the other hand, 16% are somewhat unsatisfied, and 7% are very unsatisfied with the standing of physicians.

“In terms of respect, we seem to be treated as average employees these days. However, in terms of outcomes, we need to be gods,” said a cardiovascular surgeon in Florida. “If any other company/industry outside of the medical industry or air travel had our level of performance, they would throw us a parade.”

As many as 20% of physicians are indifferent about the matter.

“At least we are more respected than lawyers,” quipped a New York pediatrician.

Would you recommend it?
Despite the increasing demands, rising costs of education, and dwindling respect, 57% of physicians would still recommend the medical profession to family or friends. Twenty-one percent of those said they would do so enthusiastically, while 36% would recommend it but not quite as strongly.

Sixteen percent of respondents would neither encourage nor discourage others from joining the profession.

About one quarter (26%) would recommend against becoming a physician. Of these, half said they would be mildly discouraging, while the other half would be emphatically discouraging.

What makes you happy?
As a counterpoint to all the negativity surrounding health care, our survey asked respondents to describe something we don’t talk about enough: When do you feel happy to be a doctor?

  • “When an underdog patient beats the odds...and says thank you.” – Thoracic surgeon in Virginia
  • “When patients tell me I’m a great doctor, or that they made healthy decisions because of me.” – Internist in Maryland
  • “When I have all of my charts done and claims filed, and I can go home without homework.” – Family medicine physician in Texas
  • “When I have made a patient happy and they have their life back. There is no greater feeling one can have. And I am most proud to have been part of that experience.” – Orthopedic physician in Florida
  • “When I help a person feel better or cure them of cancer. When I can solve a problem using my mind and my hands. When I ask God to use me as an instrument to help others with surgery or compassion, and it works. When a patient gives me a hug or sends me a thank you letter.” – Colorectal surgeon in Texas

Said an Illinois cardiovascular surgeon, “Every day I find happiness helping patients improve their lives.”

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