Australian doctors' non-clinical activities: Results from the Medicine in Australia: Balancing Employment and Life (MABEL) survey of doctors

Catherine Joyce, Harris Eyre, Wei Chun Wang, Caroline Laurence

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Objective. The aim of the present study was to investigate non-clinical work conducted by Australian doctors. Methods. This study was an exploratory descriptive study using data from Wave 5 of the Medicine in Australia: Balancing Employment and Life (MABEL) longitudinal survey, collected in 2012 from Australian medical practitioners (2200 general practitioners (GPs), 3455 specialists, 1270 specialists in training and 1656 hospital non-specialists). The main outcome measure was the number of hours worked per week in non-clinical work. Regression analysis was used to determine associations between non-clinical activities (i.e. education-related, management and administration and other) and personal and professional characteristics, including age, gender, job and life satisfaction, total clinical working hours, sector of practice (public or private) and doctor type. Results. Australian doctors spend an average of just under 7h per week, or 16% of their working time, on non-clinical activities. Doctors who worked more hours on non-clinical activities overall, and in education-related and management and administration specifically, were male, younger, had lower life satisfaction and generally spent fewer hours on clinical work. Lower job satisfaction was associated with longer management and administration hours, but not with time spent in education-related activities. Specialists were more likely to work long non-clinical hours, whereas GPs were more likely to report none. Hospital non-specialists reported relatively high management and administration hours. Conclusions. Further work is required to better understand the full range of non-clinical activities doctors are involved in and how this may impact future workforce projections. What is known about the topic? Doctors usually engage in a range of non-clinical activities, such as research, education and administration. Policy documents suggest these activities are expected to comprise 20%-30% of a doctor's time in public settings. Understanding how engagement in non-clinical activities affects doctors' time in direct patient care, their career progression and job and life satisfaction is highly important and poorly understood. What does this paper add? This national study provides the first empirical data on doctors' non-clinical activity, and shows that non-clinical hours are traded off with clinical hours, and are associated with personal and professional characteristics. What are the implications for practitioners? Any changes in doctors' non-clinical hours may influence doctors' satisfaction as well as their clinical working hours. Workforce planning needs to take non-clinical hours into account.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)588-594
Number of pages7
JournalAustralian Health Review
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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