Despite major changes in health care, the prevalence and predictors of career satisfaction have not recently been comprehensively studied in either women or men physicians.
The Women Physicians' Health Study surveyed a nationally representative random sample (n=4501 respondents; response rate, 59%) of US women physicians. Using univariate and logistic regression analyses, we examined personal and professional characteristics that were correlated with 3 major outcomes: career satisfaction, desire to become a physician again, and desire to change one's specialty.
Women physicians were generally satisfied with their careers (84% usually, almost always, or always satisfied). However, 31% would maybe, probably, or definitely not choose to be a physician again, and 38% would maybe, probably, or definitely prefer to change their specialty. Physician's age, control of the work environment, work stress, and a history of harassment were independent predictors of all 3 outcomes, with younger physicians and those having least work control, most work stress, or having experienced severe harassment reporting the most dissatisfaction. The strongest association (odds ratio, 11.3; 95% confidence interval, 7.3-17.5; P<.001) was between work control and career satisfaction. Other significant predictors (P<.01) of outcomes included birthplace, ethnicity, sexual orientation, having children, stress at home, religious fervor, mental health, specialty, practice type, and workload.
Women physicians generally report career satisfaction, but many, if given the choice, would not become a physician again or would choose a different specialty. Correctable factors such as work stress, harassment, and poor control over work environment should be addressed to improve the recruitment and retention of women physicians.