Where Are The Physician Satisfaction Metrics?

coaching feelings goals Oct 25, 2022
Measuring physician satisfaction.  Physician burnout.



“The Hospital Will Not Love You Back.”

–Vagabond MD 

During a recent physician meeting, one of my partners began talking about physician satisfaction.  He said it in a very matter-of-fact way.  He spoke about how our current way of doing things affected physician satisfaction.  As he spoke, I began to think about measuring physician satisfaction on a gauge with a moving needle.  Then I began to wonder, where are the physician satisfaction metrics?  Where is the dashboard that measures our happiness at work?

Physicians are not strangers to metrics.  We are frequently exposed to income-affecting dashboards.  The metric that generates the most significant reaction from physicians is patient satisfaction.  I have a love-hate relationship with patient satisfaction.  There is a part of me that truly believes that patient satisfaction is essential.  I firmly believe patients should be included in their medical treatment plans and encouraged to ask questions.  I am also exceedingly diligent in my informed consent process.  Informed and aligned patient care is a core principle in my medical practice.

The part of patient satisfaction I do not love is the things I cannot control.  As an employed gastroenterologist, the only thing I can control is my interaction with patients.  I can control how I communicate with my patients in the office or at the time of their procedure and how they receive messages and phone calls from me.  That is all.

Alternatively, there is a laundry list of things I cannot control:

  • The timeliness with which patients arrive for their scheduled appointment
  • Insurance coverage for medications or procedures
  • Whether or not the staff is available to answer the phone when they call
  • The level of friendliness of the receptionist at check-in or check-out
  • Whether or not their IV was placed on the first attempt
  • If they have an unintended reaction to a medication
  • How the pharmacist discussed their new medication with them
  • And many, many other things

As I have continued on my coaching journey, I have found that most things in life cannot be controlled.  While it is clear to me, and likely you, that physicians have limited input into patient satisfaction, times are few and far between that I can attend a physician-oriented meeting without hearing helpful tips about what I can do to improve the patient experience.  Suggestions include:

  • Listening to the patient
  • Empathy
  • Improved communication skills
  • Taking your time during interactions

None of this is surprising to physicians.  These skills, or at least the need for these skills, are covered in the first year of medical school.  What astounds me most about these conversations is the lack of discussion surrounding why these attributes are so hard to come by in modern-day medicine.  What common denominator is the most significant contributor to the breakdown in communication between patient and physician?  Physician satisfaction.

Attempts are made to distract physicians from the daily grind with pizza parties, coffee mugs, free subscriptions to meditation apps, and congratulatory emails on a stellar patient review.  We are encouraged to get sleep and exercise to assist with stress management.  But pizza parties are no longer cutting it.  And, maybe they never did.  Where is the support?  

Most physicians are waiting for their employers to start talking about physician satisfaction.  Many physicians believe that once their employer follows suit, their problems will be solved.  But what if that is just another carrot being dangled in front of us?  What if that day never comes?  Then what?  Call me a cynic, but I do not believe physician satisfaction will ever be a measured metric.  The administrators will never sit around a large wooden table debating ways to make physicians happier.  So if they aren’t going to do it, who will? 


We will.

If physician satisfaction is our job, where do we start? 



It begins by recognizing what we can control, and that answer will differ for each of us.

  • Can you control your schedule?
  • Can you control appointment times?
  • Can you control workflow?
  • Can you control staffing?
  • Can you control your level of support?

It might also involve asking yourself difficult questions.

  • Can I imagine a scenario where I am happy in this job?
  • Is it possible that something else might bring more fulfillment?
  • Is physician satisfaction a possibility for me?

There are not easy questions to answer, but they are critical.  And they may just be the key to your satisfaction.  Don’t be afraid to look, and don’t fear what you might find.  There is no judgment here.  There is only curiosity.

Maybe that isn’t the answer you want to hear.  Perhaps you hoped I would have a better solution to this vast issue.  But maybe, just maybe, this is the only solution you need.  Because when we are looking at who is in control of your satisfaction, happiness, and fulfillment, isn’t it a bit reassuring to know that you have the ultimate authority?  Remembering that you can be responsible for your own happiness metric is the most satisfying scenario of all. 




I want to invite you to check out my FREE TRAINING.  Click here to get: How Busy Physicians Can Stop Trying To Escape Medicine And Start Living Their Best Life Today.

This training will teach you the five essential tools physicians need to stop feeling disconnected, overwhelmed, and trapped in medicine.  You will also learn how to discover what you truly want in life and how to get it.  



PS.  I get a lot of inspiration from music lyrics.  Many people use inspiring quotes (and I do, too), but music really speaks to me.  I hope you find inspiration in the songs too.


The Toasters - Don’t Let The Bastards Grind You Down



Click here to read the lyrics.



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