Study finds radiologists happy with their work -- sort of

Radiologists love to grumble about their jobs, but they are still happier about their careers than other physicians, according to the results of a new survey released this month. Although radiology has maintained its edge, professional satisfaction ratings among professionally active radiologists have been declining over the last eight years, the survey found.

Dr. Hanna Zafar and colleagues in the department of radiology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia analyzed data from a nationally representative, confidential, random-sample mail survey of U.S. radiologists conducted in 2003 by the American College of Radiology (ACR) of Reston, VA. The survey had a response rate of 63% and 1,924 participants (Radiology, July 2007, Vol.  244:1. pp. 223-231).

The HUP researchers found that 93% of radiologists are contented in their career, reporting that they enjoyed radiology very much (61%) or somewhat (32%). That compares to 80% for physicians in general, a figure taken from a 1997-2001 Community Tracking Study Physician Survey.

The above-average job satisfaction for radiologists is surprising, Zafar and colleagues wrote, because patient contact is a primary source of satisfaction for physicians overall, and radiologists have little patient contact. The study seems to point to the fact that income and lifestyle have become more and more important to physician job satisfaction, the researchers wrote.

But the mean satisfaction score among radiologists decreased from 1.62 in 1995 to 1.47 in 2003, with 32% reporting that they enjoyed radiology more than five years ago, and 41% reporting that they enjoyed it less. Radiologists-in-training appeared to enjoy radiology more than professionally active radiologists, with 69% of trainees saying they enjoyed radiology "very much" compared to 60% of professionally active radiologists.

Collecting the data

The survey included two questions to evaluate current satisfaction and changes in satisfaction: "Thinking about all aspects of your work, what is your feeling about working as a radiologist?" and "Compared to five years ago, would you say you enjoy radiology now?"

Five answer options for level of satisfaction corresponded to scores of:

  • +2 (enjoy very much),
  • +1 (enjoy somewhat),
  • 0 (neither enjoy nor dislike),
  • -1 (dislike somewhat), and
  • -2 (dislike very much).

STUDY SUMMARY

How much do you enjoy radiology compared to five years ago?
Much more -- 14%
Somewhat more -- 18%
The same -- 27%
Somewhat less -- 28%
Much less -- 13%

Survey participants were then asked to choose the main reasons for their answer to the second question from a menu of 15 options taken from the most frequent responses to ACR polls. Data were weighted to make them representative of all U.S. radiologists.

At the time of the survey in 2003, 14% of professionally active radiologists said they enjoyed radiology much more than they did five years ago; 18% said that they enjoyed their work somewhat more; 27% said they enjoyed it the same; 28% said that they enjoyed it somewhat less; and 13% that they enjoyed it much less (see Study Summary at right).

Factors that in 2003 contributed to increased satisfaction as compared to five years ago included:

  • Being younger than 35 or between the ages of 35 and 44
  • Not being a partner in their practice
  • Those who felt their workload was "about right"
  • Those who spent less than 10% of their work time in practice management or professional society activity
  • Those working in the western part of the U.S.
  • Those working in a practice that served the main city of a large metropolitan area;
  • Those working in a practice that served non-hospital sites only
  • Those working in a practice partly or wholly owned by persons other than the physicians in the practice.

Factors that in 2003 contributed to decreased satisfaction as compared to five years ago included:

  • Being between the ages of 45 and 64
  • Being a partner
  • Spending more than 10% of work time in practice management or professional society activity
  • Subspecializing in interventional radiology
  • Desiring a decreased workload
  • Working in the southern part of the U.S.
  • Working in a private, radiology-only practice
  • Working in a practice that served both hospital and non-hospital sites
  • Working in a practice owned entirely by the physicians in the practice

The authors compared results from the 2003 survey to the 1995 survey, and found that a higher percentage of radiologists were either happier or unhappier in their work than they had been eight years before (fewer reported enjoying radiology the same in 2003 than in 1995).

In 1995, one of the factors contributing to increased professional satisfaction was new technology; in 2003 it was lifestyle, work hours, and income. In 1995, factors that contributed to decreased professional satisfaction included interference from managed care, government regulations, control, and red tape, and increased administrative burden; in 2003, those factors included the medicolegal climate, workload, and reimbursement or financial pressures.

By Kate Madden Yee
AuntMinnie.com staff writer
August 3, 2007

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Boost revenue by tapping an untapped resource: Doctors, July 20, 2007

The 12 habits of highly successful radiology groups, June 4, 2007

Governance means enabling practice policy, not coddling personalities, March 2, 2007

Strategic planning. How to turn 'Kumbaya' into a communication event, February 13, 2007

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