How Many Patients Should FNPs Expect to Treat per Hour?

Nurse practitioner students and practicing nurse practitioners alike often wonder what the standard is when it comes to how many patients NPs should be expected to treat per hour. New grad FNPs want to know what to expect as they apply for positions. Practicing nurse practitioners want to be sure they are keeping up with expectations but aren’t being overworked by an employer. So, is there a magic number when it comes to the standard patient load for family nurse practitioners?

The number of patients nurse practitioners are expected to treat per hour varies depending on the practice setting and type of patients most commonly treated in the practice. For the sake of this article, we will look at the most common settings for family nurse practitioners, primary care clinics and urgent care/walk-in settings. 

Primary Care Nurse Practitioners

Most commonly, primary care clinics schedule patients at 15 minute intervals for episodic and follow-up visits. Complete physical exams, well child visits and new patient appointments are typically allotted a longer, 30 minute visit. So, based on this scheduling schema, family nurse practitioners working in the primary care setting can expect to treat about four patients per hour or fewer depending on the classification of the patient’s appointment.

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While 15 minute time slots are cited as the norm in the primary care setting, other factors affect nurse practitioners’ patient load. Clinics that are not busy may have open appointments throughout the day, leaving the FNP’s schedule less taxing. Other clinics treat patients with more complex medical illnesses and multiple comorbidities. These clinics may adopt the standard of setting longer appointments, perhaps requiring nurse practitioners to treat patients in 20 minute increments. 

Urgent Care Nurse Practitioners

Urgent care and walk-in clinics don’t always have the luxury of scheduling patients evenly throughout the day. Nurse practitioners may find themselves treating six patients per hour in the mornings and evenings when the clinic is busy and few patients in the mid-afternoon. Alternately, a busy urgent care clinic may not experience downtime. The NP may  treat four or more patients per hour throughout the entire work day. 

In most urgent care clinics, the expectation is that the nurse practitioner be able to handle a patient volume of about four patients per hour similarly to the primary care setting. Urgent care and walk-in clinics with very high volumes may advertise their workload expectation in a job posting. For example, some clinics expect FNPs to be able to keep up with treating at least five patients per hour. Clarifying these expectations in a job interview is perfectly acceptable. You want to set yourself up for success rather than accepting a position that’s not the right fit for your experience and personality. 

New Graduate Considerations

New graduate nurse practitioners often expect that they will be slowly onboarded into a new practice or expected to manage a reduced patient load. This isn’t always the case. Practices that have not hired new graduates in the past or that are strapped for providers expect new nurse practitioners to hit the ground running. Feel out the company culture in your job interview to see if a gradual intro into a full patient load is the norm for the practice. If not, think through the implications of jumping into a full patient load immediately after graduation. 

Polling by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners indicates that 69.5% of nurse practitioners see three or more patients per hour. So, family nurse practitioners should anticipate that this will be the case in their own practice. There is no ‘magic’ number when it comes to the workload nurse practitioners should anticipate but, four patients per hour or one appointment every 15 minutes, is a good reference point to start from. 

How many patients do you treat per hour in your practice?


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24 thoughts on “How Many Patients Should FNPs Expect to Treat per Hour?”

  1. I am booked for 15 minute slots for episodic or chronic care, and 30 minutes for preventive visits…this is too fast for me, but fortunately I have a lot of no-shows, and usually end up with an average of 30 min per pt in an 8-hr day. I still have to do plenty of documentation after work. Have been FNP for almost 2 yrs.

  2. I am asked to see 16 to 18 patients per day. This leaves no time for any of the follow up duties such as call backs, refill request, lab reviews, or document reviews. This is all expected to be done on time away from the office. Needless to say. I am the slave for the company.

  3. I work in urgent care and we are expected to see 6 patients/hour (10 minute slots). Thankfully, I’ve never had a full patient load on days I work alone. The schedule is set up to see 72 patients per provider in a 12 hour shift which is beyond unrealistic to me.

  4. Seeing more than 20-25 patients a day in a practice where the patient population has serious health problems is the absolute maximum a veteran NP should see in a day. The brain goes in to overload, the body gets fatigued and there is a recipe for disaster. I don’t want to be treated like a number or $ and I refuse to treat others in this manner. This is why I opened my own practice, where the patient comes first. We booked 400 patients in our first three weeks. This tells me that people are tired of being treated like nothing more than a source of income for a greedy provider.

  5. I work in an academic setting in a specialty clinic and see about 16 pts per day (15 min slots). They always show up. I finish with pts at 6 pm and stay till 10 working on phone calls emails etc. I never take lunch and barely have time to go to the BR. I stay only because of the benefits. I hope I live to use them. I do have one doctor I support in clinic and he does nothing. He may be sitting at his desk but he will page me to enter orders or make a phone call when I am in my own busy clinic. No support from my department.

  6. I have never realized that there are so many lazy doctors. I work in an emergency room and have pulled up the numbers and I see approximately 70 percent of the patients. I have doctors who “fake” dictate to keep from working. Typically I see about 20-30 in 10 hours. Now remember these are not just sore throat and coughs. They include belly pain, kidney stones, appendicitis, chest pain etc. I have been a NP for 10 years. I think most NP’s are abused by doctors and we see everything doctors see.

  7. I work in a high volume Pain Management Clinic and typically see 40 pts scheduled within 8 hrs per day. I like the work I do, the staff that work with me, and the physicians I work for. I typically work about 9-10 hours daily 4 days/week and I understand my situation is different from most NPs but that’s my information.

  8. I am a new grad working in a clinic with a physician. He has allowed me to schedule at 16-20 per day. I usually put in 8-9 hrs per day and get all my phone calls, labs, and paperwork done during the time after clinic and I come in one hour before I start to see patients. It’s very nice to have a job where I like what I do.

  9. I am a new grad with approx 7 months experience working in a very busy pediatric clinic. I see approx 25 patients a day from 8:30-5, as well as do call backs, review labs, etc. I am given 10 mintues for sick visit and 20 minutes for well checks. I am typically double and even triple booked most days. As an example I will have two sick visits schedule at 8:30, a well check scheduled at 8:40, and two more sick visits scheduled at 8:50, etc. It’s insane. There was one day last week I saw 12 patients in the morning and 18 in the afternoon. I feel like I am always rushed then I have lots of charting in the evening to complete. I believe this is the future of healthcare. I am just a pinball in a machine and am expected to bounce from room to room making sure I don’t kill anyone in the process. It’s only about money. I hate my job, but I love my patients.

  10. I am a new graduate NP and I recently started a position in a private practice in Harlem, NY. They expect me to see an average of 30 patients during an 8 hour period. This is insane. They double/triple book me, and I have no lunch break scheduled. For example, on some days I will have three new patient physicals all scheduled for 9:o0 am. Moreover, they will guilt me into seeing walk-ins on top of the patient load I already have. It’s a family-owned practice, and the physicians (owners) will dump their patients onto the NPs.

    Most of the patients are Spanish-speaking (I don’t speak Spanish) and chronically-ill with uncontrolled HTN, DM, etc. I see many complicated cases…getting 5-10 minutes for a patient like this is asinine. Then I’m left to answering phone calls, returning phone calls, sending rx refills, answering emails, preparing FMLA and disability requests, etc. I have no time to chart therefore I go to work early/stay late in a poor attempt to catch-up. The high turn over rate with NPs/PAs and Medical Assistants speak for itself. Since the turnover rate is so high, I don’t have a steady medical assistant, so I waste even more time giving and charting vaccines, etc. I will be submitting my 2 week resignation letter very soon. I love my patients, but this private practice is obviously more interested in $ and not quality of care.

  11. Wow… these are rough schedules. I see on average 10 to 14 hours patients a day. I am on a 20/40 template. 40 minutes is not only for physicals but pts that indicate more than one issue when scheduling.

  12. I work in a freestanding ER and see all levels of acuity and average 1.5 pts per hour. This includes procedures, admissions

  13. I have been an FNP for 20 years, and have worked primarily in IM for the past 9. I am very fortunate that the internist I work with is independent and will not schedule our (complex) patients for less than 30 minutes, so I am scheduled with the same guidelines. I have seen as many as 19 patients in a day because of acute care add-ons, and this is doable. But I have noticed a real difference in productivity since the introduction of electronic medical records. When I was a new practitioner working in a rural family medical clinic 15-20 years ago, the documentation requirements were much less demanding. I could see up to 36 patients a day, and while challenging, it was still possible without excessive OT because I could still finish my hand-written patient charts in 1 hour. I can’t imagine doing that in this day and age. Today, with some acute care visits, it takes me longer to complete the progress note than to see the patient!

  14. I expect to see enough patients to cover my salary and overhead, plus some profit for my employer. 30 patients a day is a very realistic expectation. I have an assistant to put my pts in the room, assist with procedures, and documenting. I also have my assistant do call backs and schedule. She also brings important labs and questions right to me. My day is 8.5 to 9 hours long, and I take 45 min to an hour for lunch. I don’t need 30 min to Complete a physical. If you are slotted for every 15 min, 8 hours gives you 32 patients, so that’s 30 min to finish charting/answer questions, 30min-1 hour for breaks.

    1. Bridget Molloy

      Most don’t have a scribe/assistant- I can’t even imagine- I see 25/day in IM and have been a NP for 15 years and I do everything except put pts in rooms or do vitals. I am dying for an assistant/scribe to do my documenting- I work 3 hours at night when my babies go to sleep and wake up at 3:45-4am to work in the am and am still so behind. I am drowning- have a cult like following, and I am amazing at what I do, but am burning out slowly and very painfully.

  15. I work in a pediatric practice, and have been an FNP for 2 years. I do all 30 minute visits, acutes included. the only exception is for ear infections- I will see those for 15 minutes. We are a newer practice, but our organization is supportive of our dictating 30 minutes.

  16. I work in the Federal Healthcare system and see patients with multiple complexeties and diagnosis. I see 12-16 patients per day and stay after most evening for 2 hours on average doing callbacks, prescriptions, etc. I get 30 for routine; however, we have additional requirements or clinical reminders completed by nursing first-typically I get 15 minutes if the patient is on time, 45 minutes for new patient including full panel of labs, records request, etc and 1 hour if I am doing complete gynecological exam and addressing any routine concerns.

    I work part time in addition to full time at another healthcare organizations immediate care centers where I average of 3-4 per hour-36-50 in a 12 hour shift.

  17. I’ve been practicing as a family NP for about 6 years and have come to realize just how seriously broken the healthcare system in this country truly is. Average work day is 8-5pm, plus after hours documentation, call backs and paperwork. I work full time, 5 days a wk with alternating Saturday hours. I am also scheduled throughout lunch each day and do not get a break. This is insane. Sure, it might be do able on a short term basis, but long term, this is burnout city for even the most high energy workaholic. Many practices operate under the mentality of hiring NPs for “cheap” labor (comparable to a MDs salary). Work the NPs as hard as possible, with same expectations as MDs in regards to scope of practice. When NP burns out, get rid of them and hire fresh blood. Wash, rinse, repeat. I love what I do, but I hate the what healthcare system has become. Ultimately, I would never have become a NP if I knew then what I know now.

  18. There is no way I’m the world you are seeing 30 PT’s a day and doing EMR. It’s cumbersome and time consuming. You must constantly check to make sure you’re meeting goals. You get dinged if MED reconciliation isn’t done 100% of the time. I spend more time looking at the computer than the pt. Especially when the computer crashed in the middle of the visit. So much for your 15 minute visit. I love what I do. But it’s become a pretty sad place sometimes

  19. I am a new grad working in plastic surgery. I work 9-5 ish, sometimes 6, 7, 8pm ish. I see pre and post op patients throughout the day, maybe 15-20. We schedule pre-ops to be 45 minutes. It is a detailed medical history and physical exam. Post ops vary from 15 min to 1/2 hour. Suture removals and 24 hour post ops take the longest. I pre op the patients and then the surgeon speaks with them for 5-10 min. My schedule is largely dictated by the surgeon of the day and what time his/her pre ops are scheduled. I am always “on call” -even on “vacation” if a patient has complications due to all our surgeons being travelers and not anywhere near the clinic after surgery is completed.

  20. The quality of care and risk for mistakes are quite high at those levels. It’s no wonder malpractice is the third lading cause of death in the United States. Just imagine the people that don’t die.
    Who would of seen that coming ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ lol. Patients don’t listen because they aren’t listened to. There is no time to really evaluate a person in 15 mins. Then the paperwork and all the other things behind the scenes people don’t think about… Ffs. Write that dissertation God damn it. Open a practice don’t slam your NPs charge $100 a visit do skin and allergy testing also, make money. Give patients 30-45min procedures 1 hour (if practical and longer if need be)

  21. I see 20-25 patients in 4-5 hours and 40-68 in 9-10. There are 8 patients scheduled per hour plus walk-ins. It is scheduled high to compensate for no shows. This is with a cumbersome EMR. This has been repeatedly reported to the company as not safe and not doable. Suggestions for change have been offered. No reaction from mgmt. in months. The MAs leave for more pay. So, always inexperienced MAs. New providers don’t stay (they can’t believe the workload). The old providers will soon be leaving. Is this what to expect in Urgent Care everywhere?

  22. I work in a family planning clinic. We schedule 6-7 patients per hour and also take walk-ins. On average 40% of our patients don’t show up (this is a young patient population). When everyone shows up, it’s a nightmare. Some visits are quick: STI testing, refilling birth control pills, etc. Others are longer: IUD insertion, contraceptive implant removal, infection exams (which often include a wet mount), well woman exams, etc. We frequently dispense medications in clinic as well, which takes additional time. I was working toward public service loan forgiveness (by working at a non-profit for 10 years). I don’t know if it’s worth 4 more years of this. Apparently the government only actually forgives loans under this program 1% of the time anyway. I’m burned out. This was my dream job, but I’m over it. I’m seriously considering leaving the profession, even if it means taking a significant pay cut. I’m tired of feeling like I can’t give the best care due to my workload and the workload of the support staff. I got into this profession to help people…

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