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Health Care Costs and Financing

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Job satisfaction for most physicians hinges on good staff relationships, control of time off, and clinical autonomy

A growing number of physicians are joining group practices, which in turn, have relationships with other groups and health care organizations. This has created more potential for a clash of work values between physicians and their practice organizations.

Health organizations can maximize physician satisfaction by improving factors that U.S. physicians consider key to the "ideal job." These include: good relationships with staff and colleagues, control of time off, adequate resources, and clinical autonomy. This is the conclusion of a recent study that involved a nationally representative survey of physicians in outpatient practice in the United States. The study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (National Research Service Award training grant T32 HS00032).

Lead author, Eric S. Williams, Ph.D., of the University of Alabama, and his colleagues asked physicians about the importance of 10 work values. More than 90 percent of physicians rated the factors cited above as very important, regardless of race/ethnicity, age, sex, and practice setting. About 85 percent of doctors surveyed said that recognition that their work is important and long-term relationships with patients are critical to an ideal job. Having substantial income and a connection to the community were rated as very important by about 75 percent of physicians. The last work value, being spared administrative work, was rated as very important by only 56 percent of doctors.

The value put on relationships with staff and colleagues reflects the critical importance of the relational aspects of the physician-medical group fit, note the researchers. They recommend that practices assess the personal values of their physicians and the practice organization, use realistic job previews in the recruitment process, adopt socialization tactics with new hires, and create a human resources information system to improve organization-physician fit.

See "What do physicians want in their ideal job?" by Eric S. Williams, Ph.D., Mark Linzer, M.D., Donald E. Pathman, M.D., M.P.H., and others, in the January 2003 Journal of Medical Practice Management, pp. 179-183.

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