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Physician job satisfaction

Would you leave your career in medicine if you could afford to? Survey results show why you might.


There has been much discussion over the last several years over physician unhappiness with their careers. To assess what factors might predispose a physician to want to leave medicine as a career, we first asked how many attending physicians would leave medicine if they could financial afford to do so. 43% said they would leave medicine (3% already have, 16% definitely would, and 24% probably would), 57% said they would not.

We then asked which factors correlated with an increased desire to leave the field of medicine. Neither number of children nor family income was related to a desire to leave. If anything, women with more than two children appeared more committed to a career in medicine than women with fewer children.

The one factor that did correlate well with a desire to leave medicine was the number of hours worked in a week. Women who worked more than 50 hours a week as an attending physician were almost twice (1.89x) as likely to want leave medicine as attendings who worked less than 50 hours a week.

Not asked in the survey is what women physicians would want to do if they did not practice medicine. This is a frequent topic of discussion on the MomMD Physician Forum, and common career paths discussed include medical writing, case review for state agencies, and consulting. We have opened a specific forum for physicians who want to discuss nonclinical career options ( in a private setting.

There is a positive correlation between hours worked and family income (with one notable outlier, see Figure). A linear fit to the data suggests that each additional hour a physician works is valued at about $61 in income (or $3049 a year for each additional hour/week for a 50 work week year). This raises the interesting possibility that a trade off is possible in which a physician could reduce her work hours and enjoy being a physician more. Reducing the number of hours from 60 a week to 40 a week could substantially improve job satisfaction, but would come at the cost of approximately $61,000 in gross income a year.

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