What makes geriatrics so satisfying?

I’d have thought studly heart surgeons or trendy neuroscientists would love roaring off to work in their Porsches. But a recent UC Davis study of more than 6,500 physicians showed guess who to “have the highest job satisfaction of any subspecialty?” Geriatricians.

I was surprised. (Bias is persistent.) I figure that geriatricians hear “Why waste your time on old people who are going to die soon anyway?” all the time. I don’t think that way anymore, but I’d like to know more about why it’s so great to doctor the elderly.

It’s not the glamour. Regular hours can’t be solely responsible. (Physicians value “lifestyle controllability”.) It’s definitely not the money. (Unsurprisingly, lower pay was associated with job dissatisfaction.) It’s despite the wrangling with Medicare. (Higher percentages of revenue from managed care was also associated with dissatisfaction.) And three prior studies confirm these findings.

To what do the UC Davis researchers attribute them? “In addition to the steady hours, encounters with inspirational seniors, and enduring relationships this specialty is enjoying increasing demand as baby boomers retire.” (They go on to note, without irony, that “relatively poor Medicare reimbursements have lead to shortages of geriatricians nationwide.”) My guess is that job satisfaction has a lot more to do with “enduring relationships” with “inspirational seniors,” cough, cough, than with steady office hours. I aim to find out.  

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