Part-time physicians report higher work satisfaction, less burnout, and greater work control.1 They also cite more time for family, community, and self-care activities, as well as more research time and ability to focus on career goals.2
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Those are attractive benefits, to be sure. But is part time right for you?
“They need to look at all the factors of their whole life,” says Jennifer Owens, director of the Working Mother Research Institute in New York City. “Are they trying to compete to get ahead and do they feel they can’t give up hours at work? Are they taking an assignment that’s so big, they just need to be at work to try to get it going? Are there factors in their life, like their kids are sick or their spouse has an illness? It all comes down to a personal, individual assessment. There are tradeoffs.”
A major tradeoff is income. Part-time physicians earn less money and have fewer benefits, which might not be financially feasible, says Iris Grimm, creator of the Atlanta-based Balanced Physician coaching program.
Some part-time female physicians surveyed in a recent study published in Academic Medicine cited slower promotion trajectory or even demotion, getting overlooked for career opportunities, given less desirable work, or being marginalized within their division.2
Physicians who decide to work part time should set goals for themselves based on their personal definition of work-life balance, says Maria Bailey, founder and CEO of BlueSuitMom.com, a Pompano Beach, Fla.-based company that provides information on work and family balance for professional working mothers and their employers. If they haven’t reached those goals within two to three months, they should re-evaluate their part-time status.
——Maria Bailey, founder and CEO, BlueSuitMom.com, Pompano Beach, Fla.
“Some of us just have the personality where we’re going to create work for ourselves. It’s really hard to break the habits that we’ve developed over many, many years,” Bailey says. “Working part-time may be a reality check that what we thought we wanted isn’t what we wanted at all.”
Lisa Ryan is a freelance writer in New Jersey.
1. Mechaber FH, Levine RB, Manwell LB, et al. Part-time physicians … prevalent, connected, and satisfied. J Gen Intern Med. 2008;23(3):300-303.
2. Harrison RA, Gregg JL. A time for change: an exploration of attitudes toward part-time work in academia among women internists and their division chiefs. Acad Med. 2009;84(1):80-86.