Background: Job satisfaction is essential for physicians' well-being and patient care. The work ethic of long days and hard work that has been advocated for decades is acknowledged as a threat for physicians' job satisfaction, well-being, and patient safety. Our aim was to determine the actual and preferred job size of physicians and to investigate how these and the differences between them influence physicians' job satisfaction.
Method: Data were retrieved from a larger, longitudinal study among physicians starting medical training at Groningen University in 1982/83/92/93 (N = 597). Data from 506 participants (85%) were available for this study. We used regression analysis to investigate the influence of job size on physicians' job satisfaction (13 aspects) and ANOVA to examine differences in job satisfaction between physicians wishing to retain, reduce or increase job size.
Results: The majority of the respondents (57%) had an actual job size less than 1.0 FTE. More than 80% of all respondents preferred not to work full-time in the future. Respondents' average actual and preferred job sizes were.85 FTE and .81 FTE, respectively. On average, respondents who wished to work less (35% of respondents) preferred a job size reduction of 0.18 FTE and those who wished to work more (12%) preferred an increase in job size of 0.16 FTE. Job size influenced satisfaction with balance work-private hours most (beta = -.351). Physicians who preferred larger job sizes were - compared to the other groups of physicians - least satisfied with professional accomplishments.
Conclusions: A considerable group of physicians reported a gap between actual and preferred job size. Realizing physicians' preferences as to job size will hardly affect total workforce, but may greatly benefit individual physicians as well as their patients and society. Therefore, it seems time for a shift in work ethic.