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Study of doctors' job satisfaction draws new media attention

by Mark Schwerin

May 9, 2011 | WMU News

Photo of WMU professor Satish Deshpande.
Dr. Satish Deshpande
KALAMAZOO--A Western Michigan University professor's research on the career satisfaction of surgical specialties has been picked up by the news service Reuters and landed in online and print publications across the country.

Dr. Satish Deshpande, WMU professor of management, has seen results of his study cropping up on such media outlets as Fox News Latino, International Business Times, Hispanically Speaking News and even international publications. The study was first reported in the Annals of Surgery and analyzed data for 762 U.S. surgeons in 2008 on factors that influenced their job satisfaction.

Quality of care, time spent with patients and threat of malpractice were the three major practice-related factors that impacted career satisfaction of surgeons. In fact, time spent with patients was highly correlated with quality care and threat of malpractice lawsuits.

Also among its findings, Deshpande's research suggests surgeons whose patients are predominantly Latino tend to be less happy with their jobs than their peers and that the difference may have to do with language and cultural barriers. There was no similar pattern seen when it came to black or Asian patients. The study also underscored a need for more minorities and women in the field of surgery. However, Deshpande, the study's lead researcher, cautioned, "you need to be careful interpreting that finding."

Another possibility influencing the career satisfaction of doctors who treat more Hispanic patients is the high number of patients without insurance, making money an issue. But, because researchers were analyzing past survey results, they could not ask respondents for more detail.

Deshpande adds that job satisfaction was generally high among surgeons who said they had access to translation services for patients who spoke a different language.

"So we think most of it has to do with language and cultural issues," Deshpande says.