Background: Optimizing recruitment of the next surgical generation is paramount. Unfortunately, many nonsurgeons perceive surgeons' lifestyle as undesirable. It is unknown, however, whether the surgeons-important opinion makers about their profession-are indeed dissatisfied. Study Design: We analyzed responses to a survey mailed to all surgeons who were certified by the American Board of Surgery in 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004. We performed multivariate analyses to study career dissatisfaction and inability to achieve work-life balance, while adjusting for practice characteristics, demographics, and satisfaction with reimbursement. Results: A total of 895 (25.5%) surgeons responded: mean age was 46 years; 80% were men; 88% were married; 86% had children; 45% were general surgeons; 72% were in urban practice; and 83% were in nonuniversity practice. Surgeons worked 64 hours per week; ideally, they would prefer to work 50 hours per week (median). Fifteen percent were dissatisfied with their careers. On multivariate analysis, significant (p < 0.05) risk factors were nonuniversity practice (odds ratio [OR] 3.3) and dissatisfaction with reimbursement (OR 5.9). Forty percent would not recommend a surgical career to their own children. On multivariate analysis, significant risk factors were nonuniversity practice (OR 2.5) and dissatisfaction with reimbursement (OR 3.4). In all, 33.5% did not achieve work-life balance. On multivariate analysis, dissatisfaction with reimbursement (OR 3.0) was a significant risk factor. Respondents' lives could be improved by "limiting emergency call" (77%), "diminishing litigation" (92%), and "improving reimbursement" (94%). Conclusions: Most surgeons are satisfied with their careers. Areas in need of improvement, particularly for nonuniversity surgeons, include reimbursement, work hours, and litigation. Strong local and national advocacy may not only improve career satisfaction, but could also render the profession more attractive for those contemplating a surgical career.
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