Arabella L. Simpkin,  MD, MMScAssociate Director, Center for Educational Innovation and Scholarship, MGHAssociate Program Director, Education and Curriculum, Internal Medicine Residency, MGHInstructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical SchoolBoston, MA 02114

What Makes Academic Physicians Satisfied With Their Job? Interview with:

Arabella L. Simpkin,  MD, MMScAssociate Director, Center for Educational Innovation and Scholarship, MGHAssociate Program Director, Education and Curriculum, Internal Medicine Residency, MGHInstructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical SchoolBoston, MA 02114

Dr. Simpkin

Arabella L. Simpkin,  MD, MMSc
Associate Director, Center for Educational Innovation and Scholarship, MGH
Associate Program Director, Education and Curriculum, Internal Medicine Residency, MGH
Instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School
Boston, MA 02114 What is the background for this study?

Response: The academic health care environment has changed in unprecedented ways over several decades, with mounting evidence that faculty are becoming increasingly more unhappy, dissatisfied, and burnt out in their work. Concern for faculty wellbeing is high, with much speculation about causes of burnout. Comprehending what affects satisfaction at work in academic health care centers is critically important to stem this epidemic of discontent. For physicians, satisfaction has been reported to be associated with quality of care delivered, particularly as measured by patient satisfaction; faculty retention and job satisfaction are intricately linked, with dissatisfied physicians more likely to leave the profession and to discourage others from entering.

Other industries that have suffered similar rises in employee discontent have found that demonstration of respect is the most important leadership behavior in improving employees satisfaction. To our knowledge this factor has not been looked at in healthcare professionals. To address this gap, we sought to determine key variables influencing satisfaction at work for faculty in a large academic medical center in the United States. What are the main findings?

Response: In this observational study that included 988 faculty at a large academic medical center, job satisfaction was significantly associated with feeling valued, feeling treated with respect, and working in a social and supportive environment. It was not associated with gender, race, rank, or feeling fairly compensated. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Our results clearly demonstrate significant associations between satisfaction, feeling valued and being treated with respect. Investment in social capital and sense of value and respect for employees is critical. A challenge of the fast-paced, technology-driven environment that is rapidly growing around us, is the imperative to stay connected personally (and not electronically) and reduce isolation. Intentional efforts to establish and nurture social and supportive environments will be ever-more critical in the years ahead. Compensation has previously been reported to be an important factor in faculty satisfaction, yet our results suggest wiser investments would be in social, not financial, capital.

Feelings of gender discrimination were associated with not feeling valued, and there is no doubt that it is imperative that leaders take measures to align and embed the values of diversity, inclusion, and respect into institutional policies—recognizing that discrimination, often considered an individual problem, is also an organizational one. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: This study suggests that we need to ensure efforts are focused on building and nurturing social and supportive environments where employees feel valued and treated with respect. The good news is that there is much that is amenable to change—medical practices and hospital systems need to make investments in social capital, paying more attention to relational connection and sense of community. Understanding what constitutes respect for all faculty are early steps to ensure it is woven into the workplace culture. We need more research as to how best to implement strategies that enhance social capital, and to evaluate their effect on faculty wellbeing in healthcare settings. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: The authors report no declarations of interest. The study was supported by the Steve and Deborah Gorlin MGH Research Scholar award to Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH. 


Simpkin AL, Chang Y, Yu L, Campbell EG, Armstrong K, Walensky RP. Assessment of Job Satisfaction and Feeling Valued in Academic Medicine. JAMA Intern Med. Published online May 06, 2019. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.0377

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May 6, 2019 @ 4:27 pm 

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