A look at work hours and patient volumes

A look at work hours and patient volumes

June 2018

WHAT KIND OF HOURS can you expect to work when you’re done training and in your first job? Here’s a look at data from four surveys on physician workloads—and what doctors think about their work hours.

Hours worked per week
Two surveys and that on average, physicians work just a little more than 50 hours a week. The 2016 Survey of America’s Physicians: Practice Patterns & Perspectives found that physicians that year worked an average of 53 hours a week. The survey reported similar numbers in 2012 and 2014.

Conducted by the Physicians Foundation, the survey also found that physicians spent 11 hours a week of that average on nonclinical/paperwork duties.

Another survey conducted last year by Medical Economics found similar results, but with slightly more detail by specialty. Physicians in that survey reported working 52 hours per week, a number that has risen slightly during the last few years. Family physicians reported working an average of 51 hours per week, while internists reported working 54 hours a week on average.

Total Hours

Attitudes toward work hours
Another survey, which was conducted by Physicians Practice magazine in 2017, found that while half of physicians reported working 50 hours or less, a sizable number work significantly more. More than one quarter (26%), for example, reported working between 51 and 60 hours, while 14% reported working between 61 and 70 hours.

When Physicians Practice asked doctors how many hours they would prefer to work, 57% said they wish they worked fewer hours. But nearly half (41%) said they were happy with their schedule most of the time.

wish for

Hours on nonpatient care
Two other surveys find more variability in how many weekly hours physicians report working. A 2017 survey by Medscape, for example, found that more than half of doctors (53%) reported spending between 30 and 45 hours a week seeing patients. However, one-third reported spending 46 hours or more per week seeing patients.

But those Medscape numbers don’t include the time physicians say they spend per week on administrative tasks. In the Medscape survey, more than half (57%) said they spend at least 10 hours a week on administration. That pushes the total average hours per week worked to 40 to 55 hours per week.

Interestingly, nearly one-fifth (19%) reported spending 20 or more hours a week on paperwork and administrative duties. The growth of nonpatient care duties is a concern because, according to Medscape data, bureaucratic tasks remain the primary cause of physician burnout.

Seeing patients


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