Importance of and satisfaction with work and professional interpersonal issues: a survey of physicians practicing general internal medicine in Ontario.
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OBJECTIVES: To explore the importance of and satisfaction with clinical responsibilities, teaching, research and interpersonal issues among general internists; to understand the barriers to satisfaction in these domains and the usefulness of potential solutions to these problems. DESIGN: Cross-sectional survey conducted from November 1992 to June 1994. SETTING: Ontario. PARTICIPANTS: General internists who were fellows of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and members of the Ontario Medical Association. Of 1192 physicians, 1007 (84.5%) returned a completed questionnaire; only the 199 who devoted at least 50% of their time to the practice of general internal medicine were included in this analysis. RESULTS: The respondents were satisfied with their primary role as clinicians dealing with complex, undifferentiated problems caring for the total patient and providing consultation. Guidelines for the referral of patients to general internists, computerization of test results, recruitment of general internal medicine fellows and more confidence in the future of general internal medicine were some of the solutions considered likely to increase professional satisfaction. The respondents involved in teaching suggested additional solutions, such as an opportunity to improve their teaching and evidence-based medicine skills and a greater recognition for their teaching efforts. Few of the general internists conducted research, barriers included lack of personal and project funding, and pressure to generate clinical earnings. In the domain of professional interpersonal issues, women were significantly more likely than men to rate having a mentor, peer support groups, ongoing career counselling, promotion and tenure guidelines for parental leave, availability of on-site day care, addressing gender discrimination and adoption of gender-neutral language as likely to improve the work environment. CONCLUSIONS: The primary role of general internists is that of patient-centred clinician. Our findings suggest that general internists want to take responsibility for revitalizing this discipline. The potential solutions generated in this survey may help to promote action that will improve professional satisfaction in the area of clinical responsibilities, teaching, research and interpersonal issues.
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