Can Practicing Physicians Choose When/How Many Hours They Work?

Aug 12, 2014
1. Can doctors choose which times they want to work?
For example: Can I tell the hospital that I want to work 50 hours a week and have it granted without much hassle?

2. Can doctors choose which days they want to work?
For example: Can I tell the hospital that I want to have Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays off and have it granted without much hassle? (of course, the pay would probably be closer to half of what it could be)

To those who are itching to tell me that I should get out of the medical profession if I don't want to deal with the long hours: I am willing to and able to work those hard, long hours. I am simply curious whether the option exists to choose lower pay and more personal time over higher pay and less personal time.


5+ Year Member
Oct 16, 2013
Attending Physician
Short answers: Some doctors can choose to work when they want to, but most can't for a variety of reasons, just like everyone else.

In actual practice, very few professional jobs these days allow you to work 40 hours or less. This is true for physicians, lawyers, programmers, accountants, etc.

In many professional jobs, if you work full time, you work 50-60 hours, and if you work half time, you end up working 30-40 hours.

If you will be working for yourself, you'll have fixed expenses ( rent, employess , etc ) so if you stay home, you're still running up bills. That will make you want to work as much as possible. If you're in the office, many days you'll have emergencies to see, or urgent referrals. If you refuse to see a patient that another doctor wants to send over, they won't bother sending you any more patients, so you won't really have much of a choice. You might be on call every day and night.

If you're an employee, you will have to work the hours that the group needs you to work.

You won't be telling the hospital when you want to work, because you won't usually be dealing with the hospital. You'll usually be dealing with your own department or group. And you won't tell them when you want to work, they will tell you when they want you to work. You will be the new guy. You will be told what to do. You won't be able to decide to take, say, Thanksgiving off if you're the new guy. You won't be able to set your schedule. You will apply for a job, be thankful to get it, and it will often be with the understanding that you'll work the hours and shifts that the other more senior doctors don't want to work.

However, it is the case that in some large groups you could potentially work 3 days a week, but you still might need to answer calls and emails on your days off.


Staff member
10+ Year Member
Apr 28, 2007
Attending Physician
Jobs I've been looking at require 36 or 40 hours of patient interaction to be considered full time. With that, I expect to be working less than 50 hours a week except when on call. This is for strictly OP FM.


5+ Year Member
Mar 20, 2013
Resident [Any Field]
I second what @bc65 said.

I'd add:

1) If you have your own patients, which most physicians do, then you also have pressure from your patients. If you aren't available when they need you, then they may go elsewhere.

You can minimize this pressure as you get more established, have a good base of patients so you don't need as many referrals, rise in seniority, etc. But as far as I can see, it'll never entirely go away.

2) Also, if you own (or co-own) your practice, then apart from the medical side of things, you'll likely have at least some admin type stuff to deal with, even if you have a practice manager. Dealing with admin stuff can use up a lot of your time outside of doing medical "doctor" stuff.