Tired, stressed and dissatisfied. Over 8 out of 10 doctors consider it increasingly difficult to work in the National Health Service: due to very long work shifts, staff shortages, poor safety in hospitals, and salaries considered too low. And although white coats still appreciate their work, only 60% would choose this profession again and the tendency to seek work opportunities abroad is increasingly widespread, especially among young doctors. This is the picture that emerges from the new Univadis Medscape Italia survey, the information portal for health professionals, carried out on a sample of 1,169 health workers employed full time, i.e. who work on average 44 hours a week and an average of 56 patients per week.
57% of the sample states that the workload has increased in hospitals but in only 27% of cases new staff have been hired within the structure. Furthermore, if in the previous 2020 survey, bureaucracy was considered the main obstacle for doctors (now it is cited by only 17% of the sample), in 2022 it is the lack of staff that afflicts those who work in 35% of cases. However, the malaise is worsened by the fact that 89% of doctors believe they are not paid enough. “Italian doctors earn on average 60,000 euros a year, but there is a big difference between hospital workers and those who work mainly in outpatient clinics, including general practitioners: if for the former the average is 56,000 euros a year, those who receive patients in the clinic earn up to 79,000 euros, as much as 23,000 euros more”, explains Daniela Ovadia, director of Univadis Medscape Italia and author of the report.
“Women – he continues – are a category that is further penalised: on average they earn around 20,000 euros a year less than their male colleagues, with the aggravating circumstance of often paying the heaviest bill in terms of balance between private life and professional”. The scenario is therefore that of dissatisfaction with one’s economic situation, which is destined to grow also taking into account further factors. On the one hand, in fact, there are few opportunities for additional income, including bonuses and incentives to which only one doctor in two is able to access. On the other hand, there has been an increase in inflation – for 77% of the sample, purchasing power has decreased compared to 2021, and for 75% the situation will not improve in the next two years – as well as an increase in spending general, including those relating to the signing of supplementary insurance contracts which 73% of employed doctors pay for out of their own pockets.
“The Covid-19 pandemic – adds Ovadia – has led to various changes in working hours and wages, but it is no longer the main source of problems within hospitals. The causes are more structural and organisational: there is a shortage of staff, low safety for doctors, increase in attacks, decrease in benefits, while salaries always remain the same. The consequence is that more and more doctors, especially the younger ones, are pushed to go to work abroad, to countries like Switzerland and England. Or, to overcome the difficulties, we look at private healthcare, a sector that attracts ever greater attention (for 32% of the sample), just as for the first time, we have recorded a significant percentage of doctors who are thinking of on their own (17%)”.
To at least partially offset the negative sentiment, the centrality and importance of the relationship with patients remains, which for 31% of the sample remains one of the most rewarding aspects of their work (in the 2020 survey the figure was 33%) . Other reasons for personal satisfaction are awareness of one’s own skill (26%), having contributed to making the world a better place (12%) and pride in being a doctor (9%).
Furthermore, compared to the 2020 survey, an aspect worthy of note is that relating to telemedicine: in the previous report there was skepticism regarding the use of new digital tools in the health sector, while now there is a clear growth in those who use tools of telemedicine (36%) and are satisfied with it (71% of those interviewed), so much so that 20% plan to extend telemedicine to teleconsultation (and 38% are thinking about it).
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