BACKGROUND Limited time available for direct patient contact and a lot of time required for administrative duties have been reported by physicians working in adult medicine. OBJECTIVE To characterize the typical daily work routine in a major pediatric university hospital. MATERIALS AND METHODS A self-administered questionnaire was completed by physicians in the University Children's Hospital, Munich. The questionnaire captured the time spent on direct patient contact and on administrative tasks as well as the physicians' clinical experience and the location where the respective work was actually carried out (inpatient ward, outpatient emergency department, specialized outpatient clinic or department for developmental medicine). RESULTS Most physicians (91.7 %) reported daily working hours beyond the regular schedule of 8.5hours. The proportion of time dedicated to direct patient contact was 31.2 % (95 % confidence interval: 25.2-37.1). Considering the number of patients in the work units, the average amount of time available for each individual patient varied between 14 minutes in the pediatric ward and 52 minutes in the department for developmental medicine. The reported times spent on patient contact did not significantly differ between physicians with > 5 years and those with ≤ 5 years of clinical experience. CONCLUSION Although physicians in a university pediatric hospital work long daily hours, only restricted time is available for direct patient contact defined as physical examination of the child and face-to-face communication with patients and families.