Doctor’s Workload: How Many Hours A Week Do Doctors Work?7 min read
If there is one profession that everyone thinks would make money more than the others, the answer would definitely be doctors. You may think that surgeons might do longer shifts than internists and other doctors, but keep in mind their first year in medical school started all the same. This high-paying job also requires rigorous training and long hours at work. How many hours a week do doctors work? You may wonder and ask this question if you plan or dream of becoming a revered doctor.
How to Become a Doctor: The Road To Your Future Profession
Everyone knows how difficult the road to becoming a medical doctor can get. First, take a pre-med course, a four-year health-related degree that lets you in on the medical school curriculum. Subsequently, after your pre-med studies, you must spend another four years of medical school.
Once you managed to graduate from medical school, take and pass the notoriously difficult board medical exam. Got your license in your first year? As a freshly-minted MD, you must train for three to seven years in the medical field as “residents” at an established teaching hospital.
The amount of time you spend as medical residents would depend on the specialization you choose. Becoming a medical resident means you are undergoing an institutional apprenticeship. You get to practice two important roles in the hospital. You get to play the role of a teacher to your profession’s next generation, and you also provide service and treatment as part of the medical workforce of the hospital.
A Doctor’s Routine: The Demands Of Your Work
A doctor, depending on his field of expertise and specialization, spends his day in an erratic pattern from the very first year of his work up to his present. His working hours per week may differ and depend on how hectic his department gets, the number of patients he cares for, the activities of the hospital he works at, and his personal business.
If you would ask a doctor about his typical day, he may hesitate to answer. Why? Because, honestly, a doctor’s day can start and end differently every single day. He may have mastered a routine, but even his customary habits get bent more times than not.
Rounds at the hospital get the most number of working hours per week for a medical doctor. Seeing through his patients one by one and monitoring their health status at least twice a day takes up more of their time. Together with the floor nurse, they check every patient’s vital signs, do a bit of an interview, physical examination, and answer several questions before moving on to the next patient.
Once he finishes his rounds of all his admitted patients, he then proceeds to see outpatient appointments. The typical clinic hours for one physician are 2 to 3 hours, so that would mean at least 14 to 21 hours per week if he reports to the hospital seven days a week.
In between the rounds and the outpatient consultations, emergency calls can happen. The ER may call a doctor on deck if the need arises, which makes the doctor’s day stressful more often than not. Again, why? Because the ER staff would only page doctors who are not already there for a life-and-death situation or a mass accident, where all pairs of hands need to be on deck.
Going back to clinic appointments, aside from seeing patients for quick consultations, doctors also sign paper works, make reports of their patients, and other back-end related work activities.
Physician Burnout: The Medical Doctor’s Complaint
What we mentioned earlier describes how a doctor’s day looks like on a daily basis. It’s hard to describe one day for a practicing doctor because he knows every day is very different. You may think that as long as doctors come equipped with a great attitude and a stethoscope, their lives seem exciting with many opportunities to learn and develop their clinical skills. But there will come a time that one practitioner, despite the fulfillment he gets in serving people, will feel physician burnout.
How Many Hours A Week Do Doctors Work
Most doctors, no matter their specialization, work from 40 to 60 hours per week. If they work five days a week, that means they spend 8 to 12 hours at the hospital every shift. It may sound reasonable, but did you know that nearly a quarter of all physicians in the US work between 61 and 80 hours per week. Divided into five working days, that makes a doctor work 12 to 16 hours on average every single shift.
The work that they do can never be tagged as easy. To begin with and to put it upfront, the lives of their patients rest in their hands. That responsibility falls heavily on their shoulders. Partnered by the exhausting work hours, one may surely feel tired and fatigued, thus what is called physician burnout.
How the Doctors’ Work Hours Per Week Are Changing
The working hours we mentioned earlier happens not just in the US, but all over the world. Doctors here and abroad complain that their health, family, and social life, more often than not, tend to take the back seat compared to their services and professionalism. The grueling 60 to 80 hours per week can destroy one’s health, concentration, sleep, and overall decision-making. Once your doctor begins to complain of these issues, he may possibly get physician burnout, making him incapable of caring for his patients 100 percent.
Doctors who complain of physician burnout due to long working hours per week tend to reduce their clinic hours for the next month or year of their profession. They may realize that the stress and exhaustion they experience affect their performance and integrity as medical professionals. The eagerness and hype they feel during the first year of their medical service slowly wane until the point of giving up their license due to pressure and fatigue.
How Many Hours A Week Do Doctors Work: Supporting Studies
According to reliable studies that survey doctors’ working hours per week, a typical doctor’s schedule fluctuates through the years. In the 1980s, doctors worked an average of 54 hours per week. That number dropped to 53 hours in the 1990s.
The AAMC Workforce Studies published a study to compare male and female doctors when it comes to their working hours as well. Their research showed that female physicians, regardless of specialty, work lesser hours than men. Comparatively, female medical practitioners work from 46 hours in the 1980s, to 44 in the 1990s, and more recently up to 47 hours per week.
How the Decrease in a Physician’s Working Hours Per Week may Affect Healthcare
As the studies and publications give importance to the welfare of the doctors when it comes to being overworked, they also cover the consequences or effect of their change in work hours would be in the health and safety of the patients.
Work satisfaction for doctors
Once a doctor feels empowered, healthy, rested, and inspired to work, he has enough energy to continue serving patients and providing quality care during his working hours. Having enough rest and enjoying personal time outside work makes them feel motivated to provide high-quality service to their patients as if it’s his first year of practice.
Better decision making during consultations
Have you ever felt burned out? It may be from a relationship, studies, or work, but the feeling of giving up would have crossed your mind once or twice, right? That is exactly what doctors feel if they spend most of their time caring for the sick while setting aside their personal health and intentions. Once they are back to their normal, stress-free, calm, and rested selves, their concentration in deciding and thinking about one patient’s diagnosis, treatment plan, and prognosis can go easily for them.
Reduced access to healthcare
The downside of lowering our doctors’ working hours per week is that their clinic hours will get reduced. Because they are working in limited hours, they would either accept lesser patients or see them quickly and provide substandard care to have enough time to cater to all patients. This means it could reduce the quality of care, impersonal relay of services, and wear down continuity of care.
Caring for the welfare of our physicians can benefit us more than we can imagine. Having a rested and clear head before seeing their patients, staying motivated in serving the sick, and helping them recover from an illness may directly affect their will to work if they are tired, fatigued, and stressed. Medical boards all over the world should also consider our healthcare provider’s well-being and interests, so they can continue to perform their vocation efficiently.
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