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What Makes Doctors Happy at Work — Culture, Support Staff, or Flexibility?

Op-Med is a collection of original articles contributed by Doximity members.

What makes doctors happy? 

OK, perhaps that’s a bit of an overpromise. Human psychology is sufficiently complex that it’s awfully hard to know what makes any one person happy, let alone a million. So how about this:

What best correlates with a doctor’s workplace satisfaction?

Enter Doximity's Workplace Navigator, which features over 13,000 verified physician ratings and free-text reviews of over 2,500 U.S. hospitals. U.S. physicians first provide a “1” (worst) to “5” (best) overall rating of their workplace, based upon their “willingness to recommend working at this institution to others.”

Physicians then rate their institution on the same one-to-five scale in three additional domains:

  1. Schedule flexibility: Ability to adjust shifts when necessary to achieve work-life balance.
  2. Culture: The values, attitudes, behaviors, and expectations shared by the workplace.
  3. Support staff: Quality of and working arrangement with non-physician coworkers, such as techs, nurses, and administrators.

In our first of two analyses in this article, we wondered which of these three domains best predicts a hospital’s overall rating. It turns out the verdict is clear: Culture is king.

Graph 1

Graph 2

Graph 3

These scatterplots show the relationship between overall rating and each domain’s rating for all hospitals with at least 10 reviews. Schedule flexibility, culture, and support staff are each strongly tied to well-being, but whether one prefers to trust the stats or the eyeball test, culture is the clear winner.

There’s no single way to define the domains of job satisfaction and perhaps a different framing would’ve yielded different results. Also, culture is a somewhat ambiguous concept, so if a physician dislikes their hospital for any reason, perhaps it’s easiest to dock points on culture — even if the culture’s not really to blame.

Regardless, our analysis of over 13,000 physician reviews does suggest that culture is most closely linked to workplace satisfaction. Given the pandemic, the EHR, the productivity pressures, and all the other contributors to clinician burnout, it makes sense that a supportive environment is highly valued.

Collage by Diana Connolly / cosmaa / gettyimages

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