FAQ: What Are the Typical Family Physician Work Hours?

Updated June 24, 2022

The work of a medical professional may require them to work any day of the week at any time of the day. However, a medical professional's area of specialty or specific career path may affect their schedule. In this article, we discuss what a family physician is, common family physician work hours and various concerns related to the work environment and schedule of a family physician.

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What is a family physician?

A family physician, also called a family practitioner or a family medicine physician, is a type of primary care physician. They treat patients of all ages, and some may specialize in a specific area of care, such as geriatric or pediatric medical care. Family physicians focus on outpatient care, and they help diagnose, manage, prevent and treat a variety of common conditions and illnesses.

Family physicians provide a variety of care to patients. Common reasons may visit a family physician for a variety of acute and chronic reasons, such as:

  • Allergies

  • Annual physical examinations

  • Common colds

  • Diabetes

  • Flu symptoms

  • Hypertension

  • Immunizations

  • Skin issues

Family physicians assess patients' vital signs, symptoms and charts to diagnose them. They may also complete testing. Based on the visit, the family physician may prescribe treatment or refer the patient to a specialist.

Related: What Is a Physician? Your Guide to Physician Careers

What are typical family physician work hours?

The hours a family physician works will vary, but many of them work fewer hours than medical professionals who treat acute patients or those who require intensive monitoring. However, on average, family physicians work approximately 50 hours per week. Most family physicians dedicate 40 hours to treating patients and 10 hours to nonclinical activities or paperwork.

The specific hours a family physician works depends on where they work. For example, a family physician working at a private practice may work Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., but a family physician working for an urgent care facility may work any day of the week at any time of day or night. Similarly, some family physicians elect to work longer shifts to work only three or four days per week.

Related: Learn About Being a Physician

Where do family physicians work?

Family physicians often work at private practices, clinics or other traditional family medicine practices. Their work is office-based with some hospital care, allowing them to only provide outpatient care. This creates a predictable schedule with little to no time on call.

Some family physicians work at urgent care facilities or retail chains. These facilities also focus on outpatient care, but they may have longer or more varied hours. Similarly, a family physician's specialty may affect their work environment, or they may work in multiple facilities. For example, some physicians work at traditional practices and also complete rounds at nursing homes or hospitals.

What factors influence a family physician's schedule?

A family physician's work environment and specialty affect their schedule. For example, a family physician that works at an urgent care facility may have a more varied schedule than a family physician who works at a private practice facility. Some physicians also receive different offers that affect their schedule, such as the ability to work 28, 35 or 40 or more hours per week as a full-time physician. These offers may offer the ability to have a shorter work week but may result in earning a lower wage.

However, many physicians report experiencing burnout from working too many hours. Some common signs of burnout may include:

  • Chronic fatigue

  • Feelings of cynicism

  • Headaches

  • Lack of motivation

  • Stress

Experiencing burnout may lead to unhappiness with their career, exhaustion or other frustrations. To combat this, many family physicians choose to work fewer hours. This helps them to create and maintain a healthy work-life balance. By working fewer hours and reducing burnout, family physicians may feel an increase in job satisfaction.

Related: Burnout: What It Is and How To Cope

Do family physicians work overtime?

Family physicians may work more than 40 hours in a week, but physicians who work on-call may be more likely to work overtime. These physicians may work additional rounds at nursing homes, hospitals or similar facilities. However, if a physician earns a salary, not an hourly wage, they may not receive additional compensation for working overtime.

How many patients do family physicians see each day?

The number of patients a family physician sees per day may vary. On average, a family physician with standard office hours may see 22 to 25 patients per day, and some may see 30 per day. However, family physicians working in retail clinics or urgent care centers may see a higher number of patients per day for shorter visits.

Compared to other medical professionals, family physicians may see more patients for shorter visits. However, they often see the same patients over the years, particularly when practicing at family medical centers. This allows them to build strong relationships with their patients.

How much do family physicians earn?

The national average salary for a family physician is $239,316 per year. However, exact salaries may vary. Factors like years of experience, qualifications, geographic location, hours worked and the type of facility you practice in may affect your salary.

Working as a family physician may pay less than other medical specialties. However, it provides the opportunity to have a reliable schedule and create work-life balance. Also, earning an hourly rate rather than a salary may allow you to work additional hours and receive overtime compensation for it.

Read more: Top 19 Highest-Paying Doctor Jobs

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What is the job outlook for family physicians?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an overall 4% increase in employment of physicians and surgeons from 2019 to 2029, which is similar to the average for all occupations. More specifically, the BLS projects a 6% increase in employment for family medicine physicians from 2019 to 2029. The BLS attributes this growth to a need to care for the growing and aging population, changes in healthcare practices and advancements in healthcare technologies.

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