Association of Intrinsic Motivating Factors and Joy in Practice: A National Physician Survey

Matthew Du, Hyo Jung Tak, John D. Yoon

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objectives In response to the need to identify positive measures that more accurately describe physician wellness, this study seeks to assess the validity of a novel joy in practice measure using validated physician well-being measures and test its association with certain intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. Methods Secondary data analysis using a nationally representative dataset of 2000 US physicians, fielded October-December 2011. Multivariable logistic models with survey design provided nationally representative individual-level estimates. Primary outcome variables included joy in practice (enthusiasm, fulfillment, and clinical stamina in an after-hours setting). Secondary outcomes were validated measures of physician well-being such as job and life satisfaction and life meaning. Primary explanatory variables were sense of calling, number of personally rewarding hours per day, long-term relationships with patients, and burnout. Results The survey response rate was 64.5% (1289/2000). Physicians who demonstrated joy in practice were most likely to report high life satisfaction (odds ratio [OR] 2.75, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.52-4.98) and high life meaning (OR 2.62, 95% CI 1.41-4.85). Joy in practice was strongly associated with having a sense of calling (OR 10.8, 95% CI 2.21-52.8) and ≥ 7.5 personally rewarding hours per day (OR 3.75, 95% CI 1.51-9.36); meanwhile, it was negatively associated with burnout (OR 0.26, 95% CI 0.14-0.51). Extrinsic factors such as specialty, practice setting, and annual income were not significantly associated with joy in practice in most regressions. Conclusions The joy in practice measure shows preliminary promise as a positive marker of well-being, highlighting the need for future interventions that support physicians' intrinsic motivators and foster joy in one's practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)583-590
Number of pages8
JournalSouthern Medical Journal
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • burnout
  • extrinsic motivators
  • intrinsic motivators
  • joy in practice
  • physicians' career satisfaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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