, Volume 11, Issue 12, pp 729-735

Physician role conflict and resulting career changes

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OBJECTIVE: To evaluate gender and generational differences both in the prevalence of role conflict and in resulting career changes among married physicians with children.

STUDY DESIGN: Cross-sectional survey.

PARTICIPANTS: We sent a survey to equal numbers of licensed male and female physicians (1,412 total) in a Southern California county; of the 964 delivered questionnaires, 656 (68%) were returned completed. Our sample includes 415 currently married physicians with children, 64% male and 36% female.

MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: The prevalence of perceived role conflict, of career changes for marriage, and of career changes for children were evaluated. Types of career changes were also evaluated. More female than male physicians (87% vs 62%, p<.001) and more younger than older female physicians (93% vs 80%, p<.01) and male physicians (79% vs 54%, p<.001) experienced at least moderate levels of role conflict. Younger female and male physicians did not differ in their rates of career change for marriage (57% vs 49%), but female physicians from both age cohorts were more likely than their male peers to have made career changes for their children (85% vs 35%, p<.001). Younger male physicians were twice as likely as their older peers to have made a career change for marriage (49% vs 28%, p<.001) or children (51% vs 25%, p<.001). The most common type of career change made for marriage or children was a decrease in work hours.

CONCLUSIONS: Most physicians experience role conflict, and many adjust their careers in response. Flexible career options may enable physicians to combine professional and family roles more effectively.

Presented as a poster at the Society for General Internal Medicine Southern California Regional meeting, February 1995, and at the 19th annual meeting, Washington, DC, May 2–4, 1996.
Supported in part by grants from the UCLA Academic Senate Committee on Research, UCLA Stein/Oppenheimer Endowment, and the Long Beach Chapter of the American Medical Women’s Association.
All conclusions in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the West Los Angeles VAMC, UCLA, the Stein/Oppenheimer Endowment or the American Medical Women’s Association.