Physician job satisfaction declining in Iceland
The likelihood of experiencing burnout, early retirement, to stop working as a doctor and to move abroad is higher among doctors where job satisfaction is low. There is also a correlation between the job satisfaction of doctors, the satisfaction of patients and the quality of the medical services. As the economic crisis starting in 2008 has had a broad impact on Iceland authorities decided to investigate the job satisfaction among doctors in Iceland and compare it to Norway, a popular destination among people working in the health care industry.
The Icelandic and the Norwegian health care systems are in many ways similar as both are among the best performing in the world. Both countries also spend a similar percentage of GDP (9,5%) on health although total spending per capital decreased in Iceland in the years 2008-2010 while it increased in Norway at the same time. These circumstances made it particularly interesting to compare Icelandic and Norwegian doctors as the financial framework between these countries changed in a short span of time.
In spring of 2010 a study was conducted among all practicing doctors in Iceland, 61% responded. The very same year, a similar study was conduced among Norwegian physicians with a response rate of 67%. The results of these studies are now in, below is a short overview of them.
The results show that the vast majority of physicians (77%) felt that budget savings measures would negatively impact on their work. Such experiences had an impact on job satisfaction and whether the doctors had considered moving and working abroad in the coming years. Only 37% of specialist doctors responded that their concern for their own financial situation was not stressful. The more concerned they were regarding their own finances, the greater were the chances that they had considered moving and working abroad. A majority of specialist doctors had considered moving and working abroad in the coming years (63%) and 4% said they planned to move abroad in the next two years. Specialists who worked abroad during holidays (10%) were five times more likely to have considered moving and working abroad. Doctors who were unhappy at work were also more likely to have thought about this.
In terms of job satisfaction Icelandic doctors were less satisfied than Norwegian physicians. The biggest difference between Icelandic and Norwegian doctors was salary satisfaction. There were also significant differences in satisfaction regarding the option and the opportunity to use their skills at work as welll as satisfaction with work hours. Icelandic doctors were furthermore less satisfied than Norwegian doctors with working conditions and job recognition. Self-employed doctors in Iceland were happier at work than hospital doctors and GPs. Younger doctors in Iceland were less satisfied at work than older doctors and among specialist doctors more younger than older doctors considered moving and working abroad. Stress linked to achieving a balance between home and work was high among Icelandic doctors and this had an impact on their job satisfaction. Doctors at the University Hospital were less satisfied at work in 2010 (when the study was conducted) than in 2003.
Given the information in the media about the sorry state of medical equipment , old buildings etc as well as doctos views it is not unresaonble to conclude that the satisfaction among doctors has worsened rather than improved since the study was conducted. Certainly it would be interesting to investigate this further.
It should be obvious that much work is needed to improve the working conditions and salary of doctors if the Icelandic health care system is to be exemplary and in world class. If the current policy, of lack of it persists the best doctors will move away in even greater numbers which should be worrying for the health care system.