Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Working conditions and Work-Family Conflict in German hospital physicians: psychosocial and organisational predictors and consequences

Isabelle Fuß1*, Matthias Nübling2, Hans-Martin Hasselhorn3, David Schwappach45 and Monika A Rieger16

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Institute of General Practice and Family Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University Witten/Herdecke, Alfred-Herrhausen-Str. 50, 58448 Witten, Germany

2 GEB mbH, Empirical Consulting, Freiburg, Germany

3 Work physiology, Occupational Health and Infectiology, University of Wuppertal, Germany

4 Swiss Patient Safety Foundation, Asylstr. 41, 8032 Zürich, Switzerland

5 Faculty of Medicine, University Witten/Herdecke, Alfred-Herrhausen-Str. 50, 58448 Witten, Germany

6 Institute of Occupational and Social Medicine, University Hospital Tübingen, 72074 Tübingen, Germany

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BMC Public Health 2008, 8:353  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-8-353

Published: 7 October 2008

Abstract

Background

Germany currently experiences a situation of major physician attrition. The incompatibility between work and family has been discussed as one of the major reasons for the increasing departure of German physicians for non-clinical occupations or abroad. This study investigates predictors for one particular direction of Work-Family Conflict – namely work interfering with family conflict (WIF) – which are located within the psychosocial work environment or work organisation of hospital physicians. Furthermore, effects of WIF on the individual physicians' physical and mental health were examined. Analyses were performed with an emphasis on gender differences. Comparisons with the general German population were made.

Methods

Data were collected by questionnaires as part of a study on Psychosocial work hazards and strains of German hospital physicians during April–July 2005. Two hundred and ninety-six hospital physicians (response rate 38.9%) participated in the survey. The Copenhagen Psychosocial Questionnaire (COPSOQ), work interfering with family conflict scale (WIF), and hospital-specific single items on work organisation were used to assess WIF, its predictors, and consequences.

Results

German hospital physicians reported elevated levels of WIF (mean = 74) compared to the general German population (mean = 45, p < .01). No significant gender difference was found. Predictors for the WIF were lower age, high quantitative demands at work, elevated number of days at work despite own illness, and consequences of short-notice changes in the duty roster. Good sense of community at work was a protective factor. Compared to the general German population, we observed a significant higher level of quantitative work demands among hospital physicians (mean = 73 vs. mean = 57, p < .01). High values of WIF were significantly correlated to higher rates of personal burnout, behavioural and cognitive stress symptoms, and the intention to leave the job. In contrast, low levels of WIF predicted higher job satisfaction, better self-judged general health status, better work ability, and higher satisfaction with life in general. Compared to the German general population, physicians showed significantly higher levels of individual stress and quality of life as well as lower levels for well-being. This has to be judged as an alerting finding regarding the state of physicians' health.

Conclusion

In our study, work interfering with family conflict (WIF) as part of Work-Family Conflict (WFC) was highly prevalent among German hospital physicians. Factors of work organisation as well as factors of interpersonal relations at work were identified as significant predictors for WIF. Some of these predictors are accessible to alteration by improving work organisation in hospitals.