The work lives of women physicians results from the physician work life study. The SGIM Career Satisfaction Study Group

J E McMurray, M Linzer, T R Konrad, J Douglas, R Shugerman, K Nelson
Journal of General Internal Medicine 2000, 15 (6): 372-80

OBJECTIVE: To describe gender differences in job satisfaction, work life issues, and burnout of U.S. physicians.

DESIGN/PARTICIPANTS: The Physician Work life Study, a nationally representative random stratified sample of 5,704 physicians in primary and specialty nonsurgical care (N = 2,326 respondents; 32% female, adjusted response rate = 52%). Survey contained 150 items assessing career satisfaction and multiple aspects of work life.

MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Odds of being satisfied with facets of work life and odds of reporting burnout were modeled with survey-weighted logistic regression controlling for demographic variables and practice characteristics. Multiple linear regression was performed to model dependent variables of global, career, and specialty satisfaction with independent variables of income, time pressure, and items measuring control over medical and workplace issues. Compared with male physicians, female physicians were more likely to report satisfaction with their specialty and with patient and colleague relationships (P <.05), but less likely to be satisfied with autonomy, relationships with community, pay, and resources (P <.05). Female physicians reported more female patients and more patients with complex psychosocial problems, but the same numbers of complex medical patients, compared with their male colleagues. Time pressure in ambulatory settings was greater for women, who on average reported needing 36% more time than allotted to provide quality care for new patients or consultations, compared with 21% more time needed by men (P <.01). Female physicians reported significantly less work control than male physicians regarding day-to-day aspects of practice including volume of patient load, selecting physicians for referrals, and details of office scheduling (P <.01). When controlling for multiple factors, mean income for women was approximately $22,000 less than that of men. Women had 1.6 times the odds of reporting burnout compared with men (P <.05), with the odds of burnout by women increasing by 12% to 15% for each additional 5 hours worked per week over 40 hours (P <.05). Lack of workplace control predicted burnout in women but not in men. For those women with young children, odds of burnout were 40% less when support of colleagues, spouse, or significant other for balancing work and home issues was present.

CONCLUSIONS: Gender differences exist in both the experience of and satisfaction with medical practice. Addressing these gender differences will optimize the participation of female physicians within the medical workforce.

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