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Do Doctors Get Days Off? Yes… and No.


Physicians work stressful jobs. Isn’t that the understatement of the year? Between long hours and endless amounts of paperwork, it’s easy to get burnt out. This isn’t good for you, your patients, or your fellow medical professionals. That’s why it’s so important that you take time off to rest, recharge, and have a little fun.

Do Doctors Get Days Off?

The short answer? Yes, doctors get days off. How many days off do doctors get? That depends on many factors. Depending on where you work, each doctor’s vacation time will be slightly different.

Paid time off (PTO) vs. unpaid time off

Typically, “vacation days,” refers to paid time off (PTO). PTO is time off that you have earned, whether through accrual or contract, that your employer will pay you to take. Unpaid time off is just that, time that you take off unpaid. How much you can take depends on the policies of your employer. Some allow you to take unpaid time off with proper notice as often as needed, others will require you to be available more often.

Scheduled Time Off

Depending on your schedule, you could have time off built in. If you’re looking for a new position, be sure to take your schedule into consideration in addition to the time off that you’re offered. For instance, some doctors work seven days on and seven days off. For some, this schedule could more than make up for lack of PTO. On the other hand, a doctor who will be expected to work longer stretches of time could need more PTO in order to accept an offer of employment.

Employed doctors vs. self-employed doctors

Just like all small business owners, doctors who own their own practice often find themselves working a lot. This is especially true for those who own a single-physician practice. Self-employed doctors are responsible for deciding how many days off they get, as well as making up for the income lost during those days. As a result, only 63% of self-employed doctors take three or more weeks off of work each year, compared to 69% of employed physicians.


Your specialty can have an impact on your time off. For example, doctors who work in family practice have more predictable schedules, but emergency medicine physicians often work longer and less predictable hours.

How Much Vacation Time do Doctors actually Take Off?

In 2020, a study found that 43% of polled physicians took three to four weeks of vacation time each year. Following behind were 30% of their colleagues, who only took one to two weeks of yearly vacation time.

Can Doctors Negotiate Their Time Off?

Not only can doctors negotiate their time off, they should whenever onboarding with a new employer! Negotiating time off is similar to negotiating other benefits, like pay or sign-on bonus, and can easily score you a better work-life-balance. If you’re looking to negotiate, start by figuring out how much vacation time you need and then propose it to your potential employer. From there, you may need to make compromises, such as less pay, in order to come to an agreement.

Other Ways Doctors Take Time Off Work

Even though most doctors have PTO, it isn’t the only way to take time off. Other options include:


If you have family matters to attend to, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) has your back. FMLA is designed to allow American workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off to deal with important family and medical matters. These matters can include things like the birth and care of a new child or the care of a sickly loved one. In order to be eligible for FMLA, you must have worked at your employer for at least twelve months and for at least 1,250 hours during that period.

Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML)

Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) is a state sponsored program that allows workers to take time off in order to care for themselves and their family, without having to worry about losing income. PFML can be taken for a variety of different reasons, including to care for your newborn baby, to deal with a serious medical diagnosis, or to be a caregiver to an ill direct family member. The terms and benefits of PFML differ based on the state you live and work in. Currently, PFML is only available in:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Massachusetts
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Washington
  • The District of Columbia

Sick days

As doctors know best, taking time to care for yourself is one of the best ways to heal. To do that, you’re often given a specific amount of paid “sick days” in addition to your PTO. The amount of sick time each physician is entitled to differs depending on where they work and their contract.

Bereavement leave

Bereavement leave is meant to help those who lose an immediate family member process through their grief without the pressures of work. While it’s not federally required, many employers offer it as an additional benefit. Bereavement leave typically lasts between three and five days, but the length of time offered is left up to your employer.