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PAs and NPs Spend Much Less Time with Patients than They Want— Here’s Why

We surveyed our community of NPs and PAs to see exactly how they spend their workdays. Here’s what we found.

Many clinicians choose not to pursue an MD because they want to focus on caring for patients above all else. But deciding to become an advanced practice nurse or physician assistant doesn’t guarantee spending as much time with patients as you want.

We recently surveyed more than 1,000 members of our community and found that, on average, nurse practitioners and physician assistants spend a little more than half their workday with patients — about 54%. Respondents told us that that number would be about 68% in an ideal world.

What fills the rest of the day? About 24% is patient-related tasks, such as ordering prescriptions and tests, updating info, and prepping for visits. Next comes administrative work, like updating medical records and contacting insurance companies, which takes up about 13% of the day. Finally, conferring with physicians and other patient care team members comes in at about 7%.

Unfortunately, most of these percentages don’t match what HCPs spend on each activity in an ideal world. Every chunk of the day — except time with patients and consulting with the healthcare team — would be much smaller to make more time for patients.

Breaking down time with patients, our survey also found that the average NP and PA see about 19 patients and have 13 interactions with family members and caregivers a day. About 90% of respondents told us they operate autonomously when making treatment decisions, and about 86% said they are the one who diagnoses the patient. Only 20% of NPs and PAs felt there was a communication gap between physicians and the rest of the healthcare team.

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