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Study: Young Physicians Happy With Career Choice


Despite administrative burdens, stress, and long hours, a new survey reveals that younger physicians remain driven to practice medicine.

In February, the AMA partnered with M3, Inc., a company that helps keep healthcare professionals current on the ever-evolving practice of medicine using research and marketing, to administer an online survey. The survey was given to 1,200 young physicians, residents and medical students to understand why they chose medicine as a profession and challenges they face today. Conducted between February 22 and March 7, the survey was administered to 400 medical students, 400 residents, and 400 physicians who have been practicing for less than ten years. Seventy-eight percent of the participants were in specialties and 22 percent were primary-care physicians.

When it came to choosing to become a physician, three-fourths of the respondents indicated that helping people was their motivation for becoming a physician. In total, 90 percent of respondents were satisfied with their career choice

Not surprisingly, administrative burden, stress, and lack of time were the three top challenges, according to respondents. Despite the challenges of being a physician, only 13 percent of respondents indicated they regularly questioned their career choice, with burnout being the top reason.

Physicians Practice talked with Patrice A. Harris, MD, a practicing psychiatrist in Atlanta, Ga., and chair of the (AMA) board of trustees, about the survey and what it means for the future of medicine. Below are excerpts from this conversation.

Talk about the study and its findings.  

We engaged in this survey so we could understand [physicians] needs and challenges. Physicians' deep desires to serve patients was identified early in their careers. There are challenges…we know that. We want to understand the needs, desires, and challenges of physicians. [The AMA] wants to be career allies, there for all stages of the physician's career, helping them make informed and confident decisions.

More than 60 percent of residents and young physicians ranked administrative burden as a challenge, is that concerning?

Ask any physician, they know that administrative burden is a challenge. The RAND study [from the nonprofit research organization, RAND Corporation and the AMA] showed [the] EHR was a significant source of stress and burnout. Recent studies show that for every hour physicians spend with patients, they spend two doing administrative burdens. Residents and medical students experience this too, through training. It's not surprising that this is an issue even with our younger members. The AMA can and has been dedicating resources, to work at all levels to figure out ways to reduce administrative burden.

What does AMA view the younger generation's role in medicine to be?

Our job is to learn what we can about the hassles, the administrative burden, and then use our tools and advocacy work to address those challenges. The AMA is committed to making sure our younger colleagues are prepared for what is an ever-evolving healthcare delivery system.

What can be done to help younger physicians avoid burnout?

The AMA is looking at ways to train physicians for the future. Our advocacy work on state and federal levels works to minimize the burdens physicians face. At the end of the day, it's about the physician's ability to care for a patient, that physician patient relationship. [The AMA] are in the arena regarding innovation. EHRs that don't work are causing stress, the AMA is making sure the next version of [technology] innovation has physician input.

Are younger physicians adopting to the technology such as the EHR quicker?  

I have to say, it's a myth that physicians are adverse to technology, it's not the technology, we all have an iPhone. What we want is tech to work for us, to support us in seeing patients. We adopt tech, but tech should enhance our ability to work with patients not take away from our ability and our time with patients.  

I also want to say…as you can see from the survey, most physicians go into [medicine] because of a deep desire to help others. While [the AMA] identify the challenges and work towards solutions, we will also celebrate our successes and the honor and privilege it is to take care of patients. The survey says although there are challenges, nine out of ten physicians are satisfied with their career choice.

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