Young GPs work same hours as septuagenarians
GEN Y GPs work the same number of hours a week as the average septuagenarian according to a new analysis of data from general practice research program Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health (BEACH).
The data, analysed by the University of Sydney’s Family Medicine Research Centre, differs from a recent Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report, which found clinicians aged 20-34 years worked the highest number of hours a week (50 for men, 45 for women).
The BEACH data showed GPs under 35 averaged just 33.4 hours a week, only marginally more than those over 75 years of age (33.3 hours), while those between 55 and 64 years averaged 40.6 hours a week.
Associate Professor Helena Britt said while the figures for Gen Y were skewed by the much higher proportion of women in that cohort, the trend of younger GPs working less hours held true for both men and women.
“There are lower hours worked in that age bracket overall, and it is to do with changes in social mores, and an emphasis on a better work-life balance” she said.
“I don’t think that’s limited to Gen Y, but it is probably more apparent with that generation.”
AMA council of doctors in training chair Dr Rob Mitchell said the ability of general practice to accommodate that work-life balance was a boon for doctors and patients alike.
“I think what you’re seeing with the reduction in work hours is the maturing of the system,” he said.
“We have a lot more junior doctors in the system now and that means the profession can accommodate a wider range of interests and allow real diversity within a career.
“Whatever we can do to enhance fatigue management and safer working hours is very important, not only for GPs but for the health of the patients they treat.”
In analysing the BEACH data Professor Britt and other researcher found the number of hours worked increased with age for male GPs, starting at 38.2 hours for GPs under 35 years of age and peaking at about 43 hours a week for the 45–54 and 55–64 age brackets.
The work pattern for female GPs was different, starting at 30.9 hours per week, dipping to 28 hours for the 35–44 year old women, then increasing to peak at 34.8 hours for the 55–64 year old age bracket.
Professor Britt said the overall trend toward fewer hours worked, and the differences in the rate of patient throughput between male and female GPs, had to be taken into account for effective workforce planning.
“It’s not enough to look at the number of GPs,” she said.
“You also have to look at the number of males and females, and the fact female GPs have longer consultations and manage more psycho-social problems than men.”