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Young Doctors Pessimistic About Future

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Nearly a quarter, though, said it would have a positive effect.

Even among the optimists, there was a decided sense of negativism—10 percent said they were optimistic because things couldn't get any worse.

In addition to concerns about the ACA, burdensome regulations and malpractice insurance premiums were also mentioned by respondents as reasons for pessimism, along with declining reimbursement and increasing costs.

"The level of pessimism among young doctors today is troubling and reinforces the notion that physicians need to be key participants in health policy discussions," said Lou Goodman, PhD, president of the Physicians' Foundation and CEO of the Texas Medical Association, in a press release.

Average age of the survey respondents was 37, half of them were in primary care, 35 percent were office-based specialists, and 15 percent were hospital-based specialists.

In all, 80 percent of respondents said they were "highly" or "somewhat" satisfied with their current practice arrangement—58 percent were employees of a group, with the highest percentage being in a group of two to six physicians.

When asked to name the factors that influenced their choice of current practice arrangements, nearly two-thirds (65 percent) cited income/cash flow, followed by employment security (53 percent), family life (46 percent), and other physicians (36 percent).

"Physicians who are just starting out must face the considerable challenge of massive student debt," Walker Ray, MD, vice president of the Physicians' Foundation and chair of the research committee, noted in the press release. "The foundation has noted a growing sense among new doctors that they will never experience the autonomy and independence of previous generations. If you combine these factors with the overall uncertainty driven by healthcare reform, it is easy to appreciate the confusion and frustration of young practitioners."

The Physicians' Foundation is a nonprofit organization that focuses on physician practice trends and the impact of healthcare reform on physicians. The survey was conducted in December 2011 by Medical Market Research.

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