Physician Race and Ethnicity, Professional Satisfaction, and Work-Related Stress

11 Jan
2010

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BACKGROUND

Physicians from racial and ethnic minority groups, particularly those that are under-represented in the healthcare workforce, provide care for more disadvantaged patients, on average, than white physicians in the United States. Studies have demonstrated that nonwhite physicians care for Medicaid beneficiaries and low-income and uninsured patients more frequently than white physicians. As a result, nonwhite physicians tend to see patients with worse health status and more acute complaints, chronic conditions, functional limitations, and psychological symptoms. This uneven distribution of patients results both from minority physicians’ choosing to practice in underserved areas and from minority patients, many of whom are disadvantaged, seeking out physicians from their own racial/ethnic background. Presumably, patients make such selections because they are more comfortable with physicians who are of the same race.

In addition to handling more demanding patient panels, minority physicians may also face other potential stressors related to workplace conditions, professional isolation, high expectations as societal “role models,” or a tendency to be shoehorned into specific professional roles. Yet little is known about how the professional and practice characteristics of minority physicians affect their work experiences and satisfaction. As the United States moves forward to build a physician base that is more representative of the nation’s population, it is important to understand the impact of the current medical environment on the professional satisfaction and experiences of physicians from racial and ethnic minority groups.
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We present data from a national physician survey to describe the relative levels of professional satisfaction and stress reported by physicians of different racial and ethnic backgrounds. We also examine the characteristics of minority physicians’ patient panels and how such characteristics may relate to their professional satisfaction.

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