On-call work and physicians' well-being: testing the potential mediators

Occup Med (Lond). 2014 Jul;64(5):352-7. doi: 10.1093/occmed/kqu036. Epub 2014 Mar 22.


Background: On-call duties have been rated to be among the most stressful aspects of physicians' work. On-call work has been associated, for example, with medical errors, injuries and lower well-being. Thus, because it is not possible to remove on-call duties, measures to decrease the negative ramifications of on-call work are needed.

Aims: To examine whether working on-call would predict psychological distress, job satisfaction and work ability in a 4-year follow-up and whether sleeping problems or work interference with family (WIF) would act as mechanisms in these associations.

Methods: Questionnaires in 2006 and 2010 among physicians in Finland. The mediation analyses were conducted using methods suggested by Preacher and Hayes to examine direct and indirect effects with multiple mediators.

Results: There were 1541 respondents (60% women) of whom 52% had on-call duties. Sleeping problems and WIF acted as mechanisms in the association of existence of on-call duties with high distress, low job satisfaction and low work ability. On-call work was associated with higher levels of sleeping problems and WIF, and the number of active on-call hours was associated with higher levels of WIF, but not with sleeping problems.

Conclusions: According to our results, one way to attenuate on-call work's negative ramifications is to make it easier for on-call physicians to connect work and family lives and develop work arrangements to promote better sleep and protected sleep time.

Keywords: Follow-up; on-call; physicians; sleep; work-related stress.; work–family conflict.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Family
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Health
  • Humans
  • Job Satisfaction*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders
  • Sleep*
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Work Schedule Tolerance*
  • Work*
  • Young Adult