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The manifestation of job satisfaction in doctor-patient communication; a ten-country European study

J.M. Bensing, A. van den Brink-Muinen, W. Boerma, Sandra van Dulmen


Objective: Job satisfaction is a common problem in modern western health care. While a lot of studies analyzed the determinants of job (dis)satisfaction, less is known about the consequences of doctors’ job satisfaction for medical visits. The aim of this study is to examine - female and male - General Practitioners’ (GPs) satisfaction with their work in 10 European countries and to analyze whether the level of satisfaction manifests itself in the communication with their patients.

Methods: Data used were from two EU-funded studies together covering ten countries: the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Spain, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Estonia, Poland and Rumania. 302 GPs (165 male; 137 female) and 4446 patients (1756 male; 2690 female) gave written consent to videotape their consultation and completed short questionnaires. Videotaped consultations were analyzed on verbal communication, percentage patient-directed gaze and general affect measures. Data were analyzed at the aggregated GP-level; a multilevel model was used to check country-specific influences.

Results: Job satisfaction differed slightly between countries. In most countries female GPs were more satisfied than men. Job satisfaction was clearly reflected in GPs’ and patients’ communication, both showing more verbal and nonverbal affect and talking more about psychosocial issues the higher the job satisfaction of the GP.

Discussion: There is reciprocity between doctors’ and patients’ way of communicating, mediated by doctors’ job satisfaction and reflected in the affective atmosphere of the consultation.

Conclusions: Although this study gives no indication of cause and effect, we may conclude that GPs’ job satisfaction does impact doctor-patient communication. This may foster research into determinants of job satisfaction that are amenable to change and may inspire intervention studies aimed at increasing job satisfaction.


Affective climate; European countries; eye gaze; gender; general practice; job satisfaction; verbal communication

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