Understanding U.S. Physician Satisfaction: State of the Evidence and Future Directions

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARYPhysician satisfaction is an important issue, yet we know less about it than we should. This narrative review updates our knowledge about U.S. physician satisfaction and proposes new foci for understanding and studying the topic that align better with the evolving U.S. healthcare delivery system, physicians' everyday work situations, and medicine's internal demographic changes. Using the PubMed database of empirical studies published between 2008 and 2013 that examine U.S. physician job, career, or work satisfaction, we compare our review findings with a review covering studies published between 1970 and 2007. We included 22 studies in our review.Overall, U.S. physicians experience moderate to high levels of job, work, and career satisfaction, and these levels have remained stable over time. This is surprising given discussions in the popular press of declining physician satisfaction. The observed consistency and the high levels of satisfaction do not tell the entire story. While autonomy, income, and perceived job demands are several of the stronger predictors of physician satisfaction, variables such as age and gender have been understudied. And our understanding of what drives physician satisfaction still draws too heavily on other variables that are less salient given today's workplace and the current trends in professional demographics and employment arrangements. Future thinking and research on physician satisfaction should align more with the array of changes now occurring within the U.S. medical profession and the larger U.S. healthcare delivery system, within which physicians work. To do this, new variables and conceptual thinking that capture these changes must be used.

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