Author(s): Janus K, Amelung VE, Gaitanides M, Schwartz FW
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Abstract BACKGROUND: Over the past few years, students in Germany have been dropping out of medical school at increasing rates, and the number of physicians choosing to work abroad or in non-medical professions has been growing. A recent study (the "Ramboll Study") commissioned by the Health Ministry concluded that German physicians' dissatisfaction with existing monetary and non-monetary incentive systems during training and subsequent practice was the main reason for these trends. Among those physicians who have remained in the workforce, there is a similar dissatisfaction, reflected in part by a general strike in 2006 by German physicians in favour of higher wages and better working conditions. OBJECTIVE: To better understand the decision-making process of physicians which is highly determined by the satisfaction they experience in their work life and to extract the factors that contribute to their satisfaction. METHODS: We surveyed all physicians who spent more than 50\% of their time in patient care (and less than 50\% in research) at the teaching hospital of the Hannover Medical School (839, after exclusion of pre-test participants). Based on existing satisfaction studies, we designed a self-administered questionnaire that contained 28 items, including items measuring several dimensions of physician job satisfaction; the monetary and non-monetary incentives the physicians experienced in the recent past; other job-related potential confounding factors and socio-demographic questions. Respondents were asked to rate each job satisfaction item on five-point Likert scales regarding both satisfaction with and importance of the item. Data were analysed using descriptive statistics, factor and correlation analyses. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION: Our data suggest that non-monetary factors are important determinants of physician job satisfaction, perhaps more important than monetary incentives that may augment or reduce physicians' base incomes. Factor analysis revealed seven principal factors of which decision-making and recognition, continuous education and job security, administrative tasks and collegial relationships were highly significant, specialized technology and patient contact were significant and research and teaching and international exchange were not significant in contributing to physician job satisfaction. CONCLUSION: This study sheds light to the underlying factors that contribute to physician job satisfaction in Germany, and it provides insights into the reasons for physicians leaving medical practice. In order for a health system to recruit and retain physicians, it may be necessary for a system's physician strategy to shift from focusing primarily on hard, monetary and compensation-related factors to a broader focus that incorporates the soft, non-monetary factors. The implementation of policies and management practices that reduce the time burden on physicians, and enhance physicians' participation in the development of patient care management processes and in managerial decisions that affect patient care appears to be crucial. The result will be increased job satisfaction among physicians, which is important to the future recruitment and retention of doctors, as well as to the productivity and quality of the services provided by this essential component of our medical care systems.
This article was published in Health Policy
and referenced in Journal of Clinical Research & Bioethics