​​​​​​​AMA survey: Headaches aside, most physicians are happy with their career choice

Doctor with patient
The majority of doctors surveyed recently by the American Medical Association said they entered medicine out of a desire to help people.

Despite some of the challenges physicians face, including a burdensome clerical workload and long, exhausting hours, most are still satisfied with the choice to become a doctor, according to a new survey.

The survey of 1,200 practicing doctors, residents and medical students, conducted by the American Medical Association (AMA), found that nine in 10 survey respondents were either somewhat satisfied or very satisfied with their decision to enter the medical field. Medical students were the most enthusiastic, with 94% either very or somewhat satisfied with the choice.

Many of those surveyed (73%) knew they wanted to become doctors as teenagers and nearly a third were already set on the career path before age 12, according to the survey. Patrice A. Harris, M.D., AMA board chair, said much of that has to do with a calling to help others—and the survey bears that out, as about 75% of respondents cited it as their primary reason for becoming doctors.

“That that motivation to become a physician is born out of a strong desire to help people,” Harris said. “I believe that has held true throughout the generations of physicians.”

RELATED: More than half of physicians have considered leaving medicine

About 13% of the survey respondents said they regularly questioned their decision to enter medicine, and more than half of those docs cited job burnout and stress as the main reason.

The survey also asked participants about the future of medicine and some of the major issues that impact doctors. The respondents named three major challenges they face on a regular basis: Large administrative burdens, stress and lack of time.

More than 60% of both practicing physicians and residents ranked clerical work as their biggest hurdle. A September study from the AMA found that physicians spend two hours with computers for every hour with patients.

RELATED: Study: EHRs bloat clerical workload for docs

The AMA has evolved its approach to medical training so that the medical student “of the future” is aware of and prepared to handle the challenges that may come when they enter the field, Harris said, including the administrative burdens they may face in practice.

To tackle that specific problem, for instance, the AMA and some of the members of its Accelerating Change in Medical Education Consortium recently unveiled a new textbook, “Health Systems Science,” that focuses on areas like value-based care and clinical informatics.