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2001 to 2021 Saw Decline in Physician Work Hours

However, trend offset by increase in advanced practice professionals weekly work hours

By Lori Solomon HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 21, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Physician work hours consistently declined in the past 20 years, according to a study published online Dec. 19 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Anna L. Goldman, M.D., from the Boston University School of Medicine, and Michael L. Barnett, M.D., from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, examined trends in individual physician work hours and their contribution to clinical workforce changes over a 20-year period. Analysis included active U.S. physicians (January 2001 to December 2021) participating in the Current Population Survey (87,297 monthly surveys; 17,599 unique households).

The researchers found that average weekly work hours for individual physicians declined by 7.6 percent, from 52.6 to 48.6 hours per week from 2001 to 2021. This trend was driven by decreasing hours among male physicians, particularly fathers (−11.9 percent), rural physicians (−9.7 percent), and physicians aged 45 to 54 years (−9.8 percent). The only significant increase in work hours was seen among physician mothers (3.0 percent). There was a 7 percent increase seen in the total weekly hours contributed by the physician workforce per 10,000 U.S. residents (13,006 hours in 2001 to 2003 to 13,920 hours in 2019 to 2021), compared with 16.6 percent growth in the U.S. population over the time period. However, advanced practice professionals’ weekly hours grew 71.2 percent from 2010 through 2012 to 2019 through 2021.

“Increasing physician retirement combined with a drop in active physicians during the COVID-19 pandemic may further slow growth in physician workforce hours per capita in the United States,” the authors write.

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