Docs Engaged with Their Work, Not Their Organizations

A new survey reveals the gap between what physicians believe is important to make them feel engaged at work and what they actually experience at their practices and organizations.

For most workers being engaged is a key driver of satisfaction at work. A new survey reveals the gap between what physicians believe is important to make them feel engaged and what they actually experience at work.

Physicians who participated in the Physician Wellness Services and Cejka Search survey were asked to rank how much they agreed or disagreed with specific statements regarding elements of engagement. (A one represented strongly disagree with 10 being strongly agree.) While the respondents scored “respect for my competency and skills” as a 9.2 for how important it was for them to feel engaged, they scored the same element a 7.3 for how true it was of their current practice.

“Physician engagement has become increasingly urgent for health care organizations, yet it is a term that is too broad to be meaningful,” Mitchell Best, Physician Wellness Services’ chief executive officer, said in a statement. “The survey results substantiate areas where health care organizations can and must take action to address physician engagement issues in order increase job satisfaction, improve retention and recruitment, and compete with leading health care organizations.”

The element for engagement with the largest gap between what was important to them to feel engaged and what was actually true at their current practice was for “feeling that my opinions and ideas are valued,” followed by “a voice in how my time is structured and used,” “fair compensation for my work” and “good work/life balance.”

According to the physician respondents, 40% said a good work/life balance is the most important element of engagement, followed by fair compensation (39.7%) and “a broader sense of meaning in my work over and above my day-to-day duties” (29.9%).

“When physicians do not feel engaged, they may leave their jobs or reject employment opportunities with organizations that don’t meet their expectations for engagement,” Lori Schutte, MBA, Cejka Search’s president said in a statement. “The resulting turnover and prolonged vacancies are key cost drivers that can run as high as $100,000 per month when all costs and lost revenue are considered.”

Nearly two-thirds of respondents scored how engaged they felt in the work they did in the high range, while less than half scored similarly how engaged they were with their organizations. A quarter said feeling engaged was very important to their job satisfaction and 22.4% said that feelings of disengagement had prompted them to leave a practice or job.

The survey also asked administrators the same questions about how they believed their physician employees would respond. While they mostly answered similarly, administrators scored one element — a voice in how physicians’ time is structured and used — lower than physicians, who had ranked it among the top five elements.

In November 2012, a similar survey by Physician Wellness Services and Cejka Search revealed similar results: while hospital administrators understood what cultural attributes were important to physicians’ job satisfaction, the administrators thought their organizations were doing a better job than physicians said they were at delivering.

“Administrators need to understand that engagement is won, not demanded,” Robert M. Stark, MD, a consulting physician for Physician Wellness Services, said in a statement. “And, physician leaders need to join with administrators to create an attractive practice environment for physicians.”