Career satisfaction in emergency medicine: the ABEM Longitudinal Study of Emergency Physicians

Ann Emerg Med. 2008 Jun;51(6):714-722.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2008.01.005. Epub 2008 Apr 8.


Study objective: The primary objective of this study is to measure career satisfaction among emergency physicians participating in the 1994, 1999, and 2004 American Board of Emergency Medicine Longitudinal Study of Emergency Physicians. The secondary objectives are to determine factors associated with high and low career satisfaction and burnout.

Methods: This was a secondary analysis of a cohort database created with stratified, random sampling of 1,008 emergency physicians collected in 1994, 1999, and 2004. The survey consisted of 25 questions on professional interests, attitudes, and goals; 17 questions on training, certification, and licensing; 36 questions on professional experience; 4 questions on well-being and leisure activities; and 8 questions about demographics. Data were analyzed with a descriptive statistics and panel series regression modeling (Stata/SE 9.2 for Windows). Questions relating to satisfaction were scored with a 5-point Likert-like scale, with 1=not satisfied and 5=very satisfied. Questions relating to stress and burnout were scored with a 5-point Likert-like scale, with 1=not a problem and 5=serious problem. During analysis, answers to the questions "Overall, how satisfied are you with your career in emergency medicine?" "How much of a problem is stress in your day-to-day work for pay?" "How much of a problem is burnout in your day-to-day work for pay?" were further dichotomized to high levels (4, 5) and low levels (1, 2).

Results: Response rates from the original cohort were 94% (945) in 1994, 82% (823) in 1999, and 76% (771) in 2004. In 2004, 65.2% of emergency physicians reported high career satisfaction (4, 5), whereas 12.7% of emergency physicians reported low career satisfaction (1, 2). The majority of respondents (77.4% in 1994, 80.6% in 1999, 77.4% in 2004) stated that emergency medicine has met or exceeded their career expectations. Despite overall high levels of career satisfaction, one-third of respondents (33.4% in 1994, 31.3% in 1999, 31% in 2004) reported that burnout was a significant problem.

Conclusion: Overall, more than half of emergency physicians reported high levels of career satisfaction. Although career satisfaction has remained high among emergency physicians, concern about burnout is substantial.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Emergency Medicine*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Job Satisfaction*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physicians / psychology*