Physicians worked fewer hours in 2020, survey finds

Compared to January 2019, U.S. physicians worked fewer hours per week on average when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, according to research published June 23 in JAMA Network Open. 

Researchers from the Association of American Medical Colleges used national survey data to assess how weekly hours worked among physicians changed from January 2019 to December 2020. The study involved 2,563 physicians and 8,853 observations. At the start of the study period the average number of hours worked per week was 50.8. 

Five findings: 

1. In March 2020, physicians' mean weekly hours worked fell to 49.

2. The decrease hit a low in May 2020, when the average number of hours worked was 47.5. 

3. In the summer months, weekly hours worked began to climb before hitting another low in November. 

4. Physicians' average number of weekly hours worked was 47.8 in December — a 6 percent decrease from January 2019. 

5. Overall, the number of physicians working full time fell from 84.1 percent before COVID-19 to 80.7 percent during the pandemic. 

"This study found that physicians' work hours have significantly decreased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., accelerating an existing, gradual decline," researchers said. "These observed changes may reflect the decrease in healthcare utilization and the increased flexibilities instigated by COVID-19-driven regulations." 


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