Background: The professional literature suggests that changes toward the bureaucratization of medical practice have led to increasing job dissatisfaction, especially in primary care. To investigate this claim, we surveyed physicians in Dane County, Wisconsin, who practice in a bureaucratic setting. Dane County has experienced essentially a demise in independent practice, ie, most physicians practice in organizational settings where expenses and total patient income are pooled. About 85% of physicians have joined one of the six competing health maintenance organizations (HMOs).
Methods: In 1986 all 850 physicians in Dane County were surveyed to determine their perceptions of clinical freedom, satisfaction with income, status in their profession, autonomy, resources, and professional relations, and their overall satisfaction.
Results: We found that over 69% of primary care physicians were very satisfied or satisfied with their practices overall compared with 68% of physicians in all specialties. Differences between family practice and other primary care specialties were not statistically significant. Our regression analysis showed that only for satisfaction with income were responses from primary care physicians significantly different from those of physicians in surgical specialties. Perceptions of clinical autonomy and specific organizational settings were more important to predicting satisfaction. Also, age and sex contributed to differences in satisfaction with resources and status, respectively.
Conclusions: We conclude that satisfaction can be fairly high for primary care physicians in bureaucratic settings similar to that of Dane County.