Survey Reveals the Happiest and Least Happiest Physicians

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HOS-thumb1Have you ever wondered about the personal happiness of your physicians and how that is affecting their professional performance? Have you ever wondered whether there’s a difference in fulfillment levels among specialties?

According to the 2014 Medscape Lifestyle Report, a survey of 31,399 United States physicians in 25 different specialties, 96 percent of dermatologists and 95 percent of ophthalmologists consider themselves to be in good to excellent health. Intensivists came in last, with only 87 percent saying they were in good to excellent health and 88 percent of cardiologists, internists, nephrologists, psychiatrists, and rheumatologists saying the same.

Unpeeling the onion on this a little, the survey concluded that dermatologists are among the most fortunate physicians. Why? According to the report, they are the happiest not just at home, but also at work, with 70 percent and 53 percent, respectively, expressing satisfaction. One expert speculated that the work of the dermatologist tends to be more flexible and predictable than that of other specialties, leading to greater work-life balance.

Dermatologists also came in sixth on the list in terms of financial security (73 percent), and only 20 percent of dermatologists say they don’t volunteer. Roughly 23 percent of dermatologists consider themselves to be overweight or obese. The report further noted that, “Dermatologists can subspecialize or do it all: pathology, surgery, cosmetics, pediatrics, adult patients, etc. Dermatologists can work routine daytime hours (full-time or part-time) and thus have predictable family time in the evenings that is not typically interrupted by emergencies.”

This, of course, begs the question: Who are the least fortunate physicians? The answer: Primary-care physicians, specifically internists and family physicians. According to the survey, 36 percent of family physicians, along with emergency-medicine physicians, aren’t happy at their work. Internists come in at 37 percent; their happiness at home is relatively low as well, with 53 percent expressing satisfaction with their home life.

Family physicians also struggle with personal happiness, with 61 percent saying they’re happy at home. As the survey notes, this may seem high, but compared to other specialties, it falls below the middle.

Likewise, positive health among family physicians and internists may seem high (89 percent and 88 percent, respectively), but it is still considerably lower than other specialties. Also, family physicians and internists (and endocrinologists) take the least amount of vacation time: four weeks or fewer in a year’s time.

The survey continues: “With 48 percent saying they are overweight to obese, family physicians are the second heaviest of the group (general surgeons take the top spot at 49 percent). Internists were ninth from the bottom, with 42 percent reporting overweight to obesity.”

As far as finances go, family physicians and internists came in dead last, “with only 57 percent reporting that their savings were adequate.”

“Certainly the income disparity between primary-care physicians and many specialists is an area of conflict and concern,” the report concluded. “Some of the changes that are part of the Affordable Care Act are intended to redress this, but it is not yet known how big a difference they will make.”

As healthcare executives, what can you do to aid in the work-life balance of your physicians? How can you help them to be happier and more fulfilled in their professional lives?

-by Pete Fernbaugh

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