Personal values of family physicians, practice satisfaction, and service to the underserved

Arch Fam Med. 2000 Mar;9(3):228-32. doi: 10.1001/archfami.9.3.228.


Background: Personal values are defined as "desirable goals varying in importance that serve as guiding principles in people's lives," and have been shown to influence specialty choice and relate to practice satisfaction. We wished to examine further the relationship of personal values to practice satisfaction and also to a physician's willingness to care for the underserved. We also wished to study associations that might exist among personal values, practice satisfaction, and a variety of practice characteristics.

Methodology: We randomly surveyed a stratified probability sample of 1224 practicing family physicians about their personal values (using the Schwartz values questionnaire), practice satisfaction, practice location, breadth of practice, demographics, board certification status, teaching involvement, and the payor mix of the practice.

Results: Family physicians rated the benevolence (motivation to help those close to you) value type highest, and the ratings of the benevolence value type were positively associated with practice satisfaction (correlation coefficient = 0.14, P = .002). Those involved in teaching medical trainees were more satisfied than those who were not involved (P = .009). Some value-type ratings were found to be positively associated with caring for the underserved. Those whose practices consisted of more than 40% underserved (underserved defined as Medicare, Medicaid, and indigent populations) rated the tradition (motivation to maintain customs of traditional culture and religion) value type significantly higher (P = .02). Those whose practices consisted of more than 30% indigent care rated the universalism (motivation to enhance and protect the well-being of all people) value type significantly higher (P = .03).

Conclusions: Family physicians who viewed benevolence as a guiding principle in their lives reported a higher level of professional satisfaction. Likewise, physicians involved in the teaching of medical trainees were more satisfied with their profession. Family physicians who rate the universalism values highly are more likely to provide care to the indigent.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Freedom
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Job Satisfaction*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Moral Development*
  • Motivation*
  • Physicians, Family / psychology*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*
  • Sampling Studies
  • Social Values*
  • Teaching
  • Uncompensated Care*
  • United States