Work-hour numbers linked to career satisfaction

With few exceptions, doctors who work the most hours are less satisfied than those who work the least.

By Carolyne Krupa — Posted July 29, 2011

Print  |   Email  |   Respond  |   Reprints  |   Like Facebook  |   Share Twitter  |   Tweet Linkedin

In the quest to balance quality of life and career, more young physicians are factoring the number of hours they will have to work into decisions about what specialty to pursue.

"Lifestyle seems to be more important these days, and work hours are a big factor in lifestyle," said J. Paul Leigh, PhD, lead author of a study on physician work hours in the July 11 Archives of Internal Medicine.

Physicians in specialties who work the least hours -- such as pediatricians, dermatologists, and child and adolescent psychiatrists -- tend to have the highest rates of job satisfaction. Those who work the most hours have the lowest job satisfaction, the study said (link).

Some exceptions are neonatologists and perinatologists, who work many hours but maintain strong career satisfaction.

Researchers analyzed 2004-05 data on 6,381 physicians in 41 specialties from the Community Tracking Survey. They found that the average doctor works 2,524 hours annually, or 48.5 hours per week.

Overall, physicians who care for acutely ill or intensive care patients work longer hours, while those who care for more stable, chronically ill patients work fewer hours. Emergency doctors and hospitalists who work fixed shifts are the exception.

Vascular surgeons and critical care internal medicine specialists worked the most hours compared with family medicine. Pediatric emergency medicine doctors, occupational medicine specialists and dermatologists worked the fewest hours, the study said.

Rankings on physician work hours will help medical students, residency directors, hospital administrators, policymakers and others make informed decisions, said Leigh, a professor at the University of California, Davis School of Medicine Center for Healthcare Policy and Research.

The health system reform law is placing new focus on the need for more primary care doctors, but low wages for hours worked compared with other doctors "may continue to exacerbate the shortages of primary care physicians," he said.

Back to top



Read story

Confronting bias against obese patients

Medical educators are starting to raise awareness about how weight-related stigma can impair patient-physician communication and the treatment of obesity. Read story

Read story


American Medical News is ceasing publication after 55 years of serving physicians by keeping them informed of their rapidly changing profession. Read story

Read story

Policing medical practice employees after work

Doctors can try to regulate staff actions outside the office, but they must watch what they try to stamp out and how they do it. Read story

Read story

Diabetes prevention: Set on a course for lifestyle change

The YMCA's evidence-based program is helping prediabetic patients eat right, get active and lose weight. Read story

Read story

Medicaid's muddled preventive care picture

The health system reform law promises no-cost coverage of a lengthy list of screenings and other prevention services, but some beneficiaries still might miss out. Read story

Read story

How to get tax breaks for your medical practice

Federal, state and local governments offer doctors incentives because practices are recognized as economic engines. But physicians must know how and where to find them. Read story

Read story

Advance pay ACOs: A down payment on Medicare's future

Accountable care organizations that pay doctors up-front bring practice improvements, but it's unclear yet if program actuaries will see a return on investment. Read story

Read story

Physician liability: Your team, your legal risk

When health care team members drop the ball, it's often doctors who end up in court. How can physicians improve such care and avoid risks? Read story

  • Stay informed
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • RSS
  • LinkedIn