Female doctors give high marks for working conditions in primary care centers

Female doctors generally rate the working conditions in primary care units (PCUs) highly. This is the result of a recent survey conducted by MedUni Vienna on work-life balance and satisfaction among female doctors working in primary care units. According to the study, there is a need to catch up in the areas of distribution of working hours and time for additional activities such as external teaching or further training.

There are currently 60 primary care units in Austria, and a total of 127 PVEs are planned throughout Austria by 2025. Primary care units consist of multi-professional teams, usually general practitioners or pediatricians with people from various health and social professions such as nursing, social work, physiotherapy and psychotherapy.

PVEs are intended to offer medical staff the benefits of better and more direct collaboration with other healthcare professions as well as more modern and family-friendly working conditions. The promise was that female doctors in particular would benefit from a better work-life balance thanks to these interdisciplinary care structures. In the fall of 2023, MedUni Vienna’s Department of Primary Care Medicine conducted an anonymous questionnaire study among 69 female PVE doctors to assess their work-life balance, workload and satisfaction. 33 percent answered the questionnaire in full.

The satisfaction curve makes it clear that working in PVEs meets with a very positive response from female doctors. Both the interdisciplinary setting (96%) and the work-life balance (85%) and income (85%) were given very good and good marks according to the school grading system. Only additional activities such as external teaching or further training are hardly feasible alongside medical work, especially for the 33% of female doctors with children in rural regions.

Young female doctors in rural regions have less time for teaching, research and further training

Exactly half of the 60 PVEs in Austria are located outside a provincial capital. Of the women surveyed, 70 percent work in PVEs in rural areas. More than three quarters (77%) of the women surveyed are between 25 and 44 years old and have children. Age and maternity have a major influence on both the number and distribution of working hours for female PVE doctors in rural areas. In the distribution of working hours for mothers, the focus among younger female doctors (25-34 years) is on other activities. These include interdisciplinary training or coordination of self-help groups. Documentation and administration take up roughly the same amount of time for both age groups.

Even primary care centers do little to help the fact that female doctors with childcare responsibilities in rural areas spend less time at work than they might like, especially for important further training and teaching commitments at universities," explains study author Florian Stummer from MedUni Vienna’s Center for Public Health, "further support measures are needed here, such as improved childcare and increased offers of hybrid further training and teaching opportunities."