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Why are doctors so unhappy with the medical profession?

How will doctor satisfaction be impacted by the Affordable Care Act?
How will doctor satisfaction be impacted by the Affordable Care Act?
Stock photo by Alex Proimos via Flickr Creative Commons

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Medicine has long been a popular career path for the best and brightest students, but most U.S. doctors today are unhappy in their jobs—and 90 percent are unwilling to recommend the healthcare profession to others.

Growing doctor dissatisfaction comes as millions of Americans have new access to health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, and there are not enough physicians to meet this new demand. 

Forty-three percent of doctors say they are considering retiring due to transformative changes happening in the U.S. health care system, according to surveys by The Doctors Company, a physician liability insurer.

Primary care doctors are stretched thin, spending more on processing insurance forms and spending less time with patients. The average ‘face time’ between physician and patient is only about 12 minutes.

More doctors are abandoning the profession—joining MBA programs to transition into management, or taking jobs in finance or elsewhere. Young medical professionals select high-paying specialties, aiming for early retirement. Suicide rates for physicians are higher than those of the general public.

Why are doctors so dissatisfied with their jobs?  How have recent changes in health care made life harder for primary care physicians? Is health care becoming a less desirable profession? What can be done to keep doctors from burning out?


Dr. Lotte Dyrbye, MD , Professor at Mayo Clinic. She has authored many studies looking at the well-being of both med students and physicians in practice

Dr. Stephen Schimpff, MD, internist and former CEO of University of Maryland Medical Center, author of the upcoming book "The Crisis in Primary Care"