Objectives: We studied how physicians' relative satisfaction and/or dissatisfaction with 10 distinct aspects of their work protected against or promoted their plans for leaving their jobs.
Study design: Cross-sectional mail survey.
Population: A total of 1939 practicing generalists and specialists across the United States.
Outcome measured: We used logistic regression analysis to assess whether physicians in the top and bottom quartiles of satisfaction for each of 10 aspects of their work and communities were more or less likely to anticipate leaving their jobs within 2 years, compared with physicians in mid-satisfaction quartiles. Separate analyses were compiled for generalists vs specialists, and physicians by age groups (27-44 years, 45-54 years, and 55 years and older).
Results: Generalists and specialists had generally comparable levels of satisfaction, whereas physicians in the oldest age group indicated greater satisfaction than younger physicians in 8 of the 10 work areas. One quarter (27%) of physicians anticipated a moderate- to-definite likelihood of leaving their practices within 2 years. The percentage that anticipated leaving varied with physicians' age, starting at 29% of those 34 years or younger, steadily decreasing with age until reaching a nadir of 22% of those from 45 to 49 years, then reversing direction to steadily increase thereafter. Relative dissatisfaction with pay and with relationships with communities was associated with plans for leaving in nearly all physician groups. For specific specialty and age groups, anticipated departure also correlated with relative dissatisfaction with other selected areas of work.
Conclusions: To promote retention, these data suggest that physicians and their employers should avoid physician dissatisfaction in particular. Building particularly high levels of satisfaction generally is not helpful for this end. Avoiding relative dissatisfaction with pay and with community relationships appears broadly important.