7.2% Decrease in Work Hours of U.S. Physicians Between 1996 and 2008

After remaining stable through the early 1990s, mean hours worked per week decreased by 7.2% between 1996 and 2008 among all physicians (from 55 hours per week in 1996-1998 to 51 hours per week in 2006-2008.

Excluding resident physicians, whose hours decreased by 9.8% due to duty hour limits imposed in 2003, nonresident physician hours decreased by 5.7%.

Physician fees decreased nationwide by 25% between 1995 and 2006, coincident with the decrease in physician hours.

A steady decrease in hours worked per week during the last decade was observed for all physicians, which was temporally and geographically associated with lower physician fees.

References:
Trends in the Work Hours of Physicians in the United States, February 24, 2010, Staiger et al. JAMA 303 (8): 747.

From Happy Hospitalist:

"That means your doctor earns 25% less today than they did just a decade ago. If you went to college and joined a company that said up front you would be paid 25% less in a decade than you were paid on the day you were hired, would you join them?

Why are physicians working fewer hours, a trend unique to doctors? The conclusion was reduced pay. Physicians just don't seem inclined to spend long hours in the office and hospitals to sacrifice their family life for the life of their patients when the the economic reward of doing so just isn't there.

I've talked with many subspecialists at Happy's hospital about the declining payment for their efforts. They all tell me exactly the same thing. They are going to work less and limit their hours as payment reductions come down the pipeline."

Image source: sxc.hu

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