SHM’s Career Satisfaction Task Force is no longer active, but its mission—to help hospitalists and groups improve job and career satisfaction—continues with a small group of former members. Working behind the scenes, the group surveyed hospitalists across the nation and began analyzing the data, all with the goal of finding maximal approaches to preventing burnout among their peers and colleagues.
“It’s one thing to describe burnout as a problem, and it’s a second thing to say, ‘How do we minimize the risk of burnout for the individual and for the program?’ ” says Chad Whelan, MD, FHM, director of the division of hospital medicine at Loyola University Health System in Maywood, Ill.
Dr. Whelan is one of three people working on the Hospital Medicine Physician Worklife Survey project. The others are Keiki Hinami, MD, assistant professor in the division of hospital medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, and Tosha Wetterneck, MD, FACP, associate professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison.
They surveyed nearly 3,800 potential hospitalists, ultimately analyzing more than 800 responses, and Dr. Wetterneck presented results and analysis through two research abstracts at HM11. The first abstract was translated into a paper and published online in July by the Journal of General Internal Medicine.1
What they found was while 62.6% of respondents reported high satisfaction with their job and 69% with the HM specialty, there were certain satisfaction domains—such as organizational climate and personal time availability—that rated low. The authors suspect those low ratings could lead to burnout, but they also note the results provide a roadmap for HM groups looking to address the issue.
“Now we have a lot more needs and demands put upon us as a profession,” Dr. Wetterneck says. “We wanted to know what people were doing nowadays, what kind of work were they doing, and were they happy with it.”
One revealing result, she notes, is that some hospitalists are “not happy” with some of the reasons they initially chose a career in HM. For example, many physicians turn to HM because of the flexibility in scheduling and team approach to patient care and QI. Yet, survey results suggest hospitalists are unhappy with the amount of personal time they have and don’t feel like they are part of a team, she says.
It’s very important for [hospitalists] to be able to feel like they’re part of a team, that they’re part of an organization, and that the work they do really matters within that organization.
—Tosha Wetterneck, MD, FACP, associate professor of medicine, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison
The JGIM article, which assessed hospitalists’ satisfaction with such aspects as workload, compensation, patient-care quality, organizational fairness, autonomy, availability of personal time, and work relationships, showed that while hospitalists rated care quality and relationships with staff and colleagues high, they ranked compensation, organizational climate, autonomy, and availability of personal time low.
“To have such low satisfaction scores with their climate and their organization is concerning,” Dr. Wetterneck says. “It’s very important for [hospitalists] to be able to feel like they’re part of a team, that they’re part of an organization, and that the work they do really matters within that organization.”
Dr. Wetterneck acknowledges schedule flexibility is a key factor in hospitalist career choice, and it worries her that a majority of hospitalists surveyed are unhappy with the amount of personal time they had.
“When I presented these findings at the meeting, I had a lot of people telling me that the field has grown so quickly and the demands on the hospitalist group have grown so much that they haven’t been able to keep pace with hiring hospitalists to meet the demands in the workplace,” she says. “So people have to work more than they thought they would in the beginning, and that’s impinging on their personal time. … The flexibility piece is lost.”