Background: Despite major changes in health care, the prevalence and predictors of career satisfaction have not recently been comprehensively studied in either women or men physicians.
Methods: The Women Physicians' Health Study surveyed a nationally representative random sample (n = 4501 respondents; response rate, 59%) of US women physicians. Using univariate and logistic regression analyses, we examined personal and professional characteristics that were correlated with 3 major outcomes: career satisfaction, desire to become a physician again, and desire to change one's specialty.
Results: Women physicians were generally satisfied with their careers (84% usually, almost always, or always satisfied). However, 31% would maybe, probably, or definitely not choose to be a physician again, and 38% would maybe, probably, or definitely prefer to change their specialty. Physician's age, control of the work environment, work stress, and a history of harassment were independent predictors of all 3 outcomes, with younger physicians and those having least work control, most work stress, or having experienced severe harassment reporting the most dissatisfaction. The strongest association (odds ratio, 11.3; 95% confidence interval, 7.3-17.5; P<.001) was between work control and career satisfaction. Other significant predictors (P<.01) of outcomes included birthplace, ethnicity, sexual orientation, having children, stress at home, religious fervor, mental health, specialty, practice type, and workload.
Conclusions: Women physicians generally report career satisfaction, but many, if given the choice, would not become a physician again or would choose a different specialty. Correctable factors such as work stress, harassment, and poor control over work environment should be addressed to improve the recruitment and retention of women physicians.