Background: Physicians' satisfaction with their professional life influences the quality of patient care they provide and helps to determine the number and type of students attracted to the various fields of medicine. In this study, we sought to delineate areas of satisfaction and dissatisfaction among family physicians.
Methods: A self-administered questionnaire was sent to all physicians in the state of Pennsylvania who were included in the 1990 directory of the American Board of Family Practice (N = 1944).
Results: Completed questionnaires were received from 1066 family physicians in full-time practice. Sixty-five percent were satisfied with their professional lives. Patient relationships, a sense of clinical competence, and their relationships with their partners were among the most satisfying aspects of practice for all family physicians. Problems identified included regulations by third-party payers and government agencies and the large amount of paperwork encountered in practice. There were significant (P < .001) differences in satisfaction between physicians in different practice arrangements. Significant differences between practice types were also found in the degree of dissatisfaction with third-party payers and government agencies, paperwork, isolation from other physicians, and the threat of a malpractice suit.
Conclusions: Almost two thirds of family physicians are satisfied with their general professional lives. Conversely, one third are not. Clear areas of satisfaction and dissatisfaction have been defined for family physicians in general as well as for family physicians in various practice environments. This information may be useful in the development of policy to structure a medical system that meets the needs of both patients and physicians.