OBJECTIVE: To understand what motivates academic physicians at a time when physician dissatisfaction is prevalent. SUBJECTS AND METHODS: Of a cohort of 480 physician faculty members (identified from the Association of American Medical Colleges faculty roster) hired at the assistant professor level, 183 were monitored prospectively for a characterization of their success in achieving promotion. In mid-2001, follow-up data ware collected about the factors that physicians described as motivating in their work. We conducted this study to understand the differences in motivators between clinician-educators and clinician-investigators and between male and female physicians, as well as to validate a previously used instrument developed to assess motivation and occupational values. RESULTS: Of 183 physicians monitored, 144 (79%) responded to an interim follow-up questionnaire. Factor analysis revealed that physicians' occupational motivators could he grouped statistically into 3 factors, self-expression, helping others, and extrinsic rewards. Compared with clinician-educators, clinician-investigators were more motivated in their current work by having the ability to express themselves (composite factor score, 4.30 vs 3.84; P<.001). Clinician-investigators also rated 4 of the 6 items within the factor of self-expression as being significantly stronger motivators for them than did the clinician-educators. Compared with male physicians, female physicians indicated they were more motivated by helping others (composite factor score, 4.18 vs 3.89; P=.03). CONCLUSIONS: Factors that motivate physicians appear to be different for clinician-investigators and clinician-educators as well as for male and female physicians. Understanding the inspiration for physicians may help medical leadership to better motivate and relate to their physician workforce.
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