Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Physicians' working conditions and job satisfaction: does hospital ownership in Germany make a difference?

Stefanie Mache123*, Karin Vitzthum12, Albert Nienhaus3, Burghard F Klapp4 and David A Groneberg1

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Occupational Medicine, Charité - School of Medicine, Free University and Humboldt University, Thielallee 69-73, 14195 Berlin, Germany

2 Department of Respiratory Medicine, Hannover Medical School, Carl-Neuberg-Straße 1, 30625 Hannover, Germany

3 Institution for Statutory Accident Insurance and Prevention in the Health and Welfare Services, Department of Occupational Health Research, Pappelallee 35-37, 22089 Hamburg, Germany

4 Department of Medicine/Psychosomatics, Charité - School of Medicine, Free University and Humboldt University, Luisenstrasse 13a, 10117 Berlin, Germany

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BMC Health Services Research 2009, 9:148  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-9-148

Published: 13 August 2009



A growing number of German hospitals have been privatized with the intention of increasing cost effectiveness and improving the quality of health care. Numerous studies investigated what possible qualitative and economic consequences these changes issues might have on patient care.

However, little is known about how this privatization trend relates to physicians' working conditions and job satisfaction. It was anticipated that different working conditions would be associated with different types of hospital ownership. To that end, this study's purpose is to compare how physicians, working for both public and privatized hospitals, rate their respective psychosocial working conditions and job satisfaction.


The study was designed as a cross-sectional comparison using questionnaire data from 203 physicians working at German hospitals of different ownership types (private for-profit, public and private nonprofit).


The present study shows that several aspects of physicians' perceived working conditions differ significantly depending on hospital ownership. However, results also indicated that physicians' job satisfaction does not vary between different types of hospital ownership. Finally, it was demonstrated that job demands and resources are associated with job satisfaction, while type of ownership is not.


This study represents one of a few studies that investigate the effect of hospital ownership on physicians work situation and demonstrated that the type of ownership is a potential factor accounting for differences in working conditions. The findings provide an informative basis to find solutions improving physicians' work at German hospitals.