Research themes and longitudinal data

LEFO - Institute for Studies of the Medical Profession is concerned with all aspects of doctors’ work life. Our main products are publications in national and international peer-reviewed journals.

Research themes:

  • Doctors´ health, work and quality of life
  • Societal and organisational conditions for professional work
  • Ethics, professional values and prioritisation
  • The changing roles of medical doctors

26 years of doctor research
LEFO is a small independent unit with four researchers and three auxiliaries, located at the secretariat of the NMA in Oslo. Since its inception in April 1992, the institute has been the originator of more than 400 scientific articles, 15 PhD theses and four books.

Our research is aimed towards doctors’ career choices, psychological, ethical and social aspects of doctoring, and the physician role in general. We are interested in organisational changes or political signals that may be of importance for the life and work and health of doctors and the conditions for their healthy lives. A special focus is kept on the discrepancy between how the doctors perceive their professional role, and society’s expectations from medical professionals.

Longitudinal data
Our research is first and foremost based on panel data from a representative cohort of approximately 2.200 doctors who every other year respond to questionnaires about career, health and satisfaction, ethical dilemmas, political issues etc.

We also exploit other registers, for example data from the Sickness Compensation Fund for doctors in Norway (SOP). In another group of projects, often on a collaborative basis with other research groups, we evaluate educational efforts or compare doctors with other professions.

Repeated measurements increase the validity and reliability of our data. Our panel data are used to monitor changes in career patterns, job satisfaction and general well-being, and explore possible reasons for such changes.

LEFO´s panels and data sets:

  • The Doctor Panel started in 1994 and has received 14 questionnaires so far (July 2019). The panel has been supplemented three times with young doctors, while the older doctors regularly are moved to a special panel for retired doctors.
  • Two other panels, coordinated by the Department of Behavioural Sciences in Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo were established in 1993 and 1994, with first-year and last year medical students from the four medical schools in Norway. These two panels have received six questionnaires so far, the last one in 2014 (NORDOC-study). 
  • We also have access to data on volume of and reasons for sickness compensation from the Sickness compensation fund (SOP), comprising all Norwegian doctors who have their own private practice (most GPs and all private practice specialists).

Variation in focus
Initially our research was mainly looking at physical and psycho-social stressors directly related to the doctors’ daily work. However, we have increasingly also included the behaviour of doctors, particularly in an ethical perspective. One reason for this is that we see an increasing gap between how doctors perceive their professional role, and how society expects a doctor to behave. The doctor role is in a transitional phase.