Doctors' working hours and time spent on patient care in the period 1994 - 2014

Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen. 2016 Sep 13;136(16):1355-9. doi: 10.4045/tidsskr.16.0011. eCollection 2016 Sep.
[Article in English, Norwegian]


Background: There is always a keen interest in the qualitative and quantitative aspects of doctors’ working hours. In this study developments are described in terms of total weekly working hours and time spent on direct patient care from 1994 to 2014 by doctors working in different job categories and medical disciplines in Norway.

Material and method: All data has been obtained from LEFO’s reference panel of doctors, a near representative sample of approximately 1 600 practising doctors who have been followed up with questionnaires every second year since 1994. In the course of this period, doctors have come off the panel as they retired and new young doctors have been included in replacement. Questions relating to how they spend their time have always featured in the questionnaire. This article is based on data from 1994, 2000, 2006, 2010 and 2014.

Results: Response rates were between 67 and 95 %. From 1994 to 2014, total weekly working hours remained the same for all categories of doctors, except those working in academia. Time spent on direct patient care has fallen, but not significantly, for general practitioners, specialists working in private practice and doctors working in academia and administration. Meanwhile, community medical officers and hospital doctors have seen their time spent on patient care fall significantly over the 20-year period. There is however great variation, particularly between the different medical disciplines in hospitals.

Interpretation: Differences and changes in the amount of time spent by doctors on direct patient care are caused by both structural and cultural factors relating to the working situation, and not least by a considerable increase in the number of hospital doctors.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Norway
  • Patient Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Personnel Staffing and Scheduling / statistics & numerical data
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Physicians / statistics & numerical data*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Task Performance and Analysis*
  • Time Factors
  • Workload / statistics & numerical data*