Monday, June 18, 2012

MiM Mailbag: 7 on and 7 off

Hello MIM! I love this blog and have been reading it for a couple of years now.  I think its wonderful that a group of female physicians are able to talk at liberty about their personal lives and struggles with motherhood. 
I am currently a hospitalist who has been in practice for a few years.  I love hospital medicine and I really enjoy my job but after I had a child,  everything has changed.  Although I never particularly cared for my 7 on/7 off, I have begun to resent it.  I this roller coaster of a life where I either am with my child 24/7 or only see her for an hour or two a day and its not working.  I've spoken with other mothers in the same situation and I have heard it.  "7 on/7 off is great!  You can be a part time SAHM!"  "7 on/7 off is awful!  How do you ever see your kid??"  People also bring up the point that at least with shift work, you don't feel the pressure of trying to get out early each day and that your time at home is protected.   I'm truly unable to make my own assessment because I have not had the benefit of working another schedule for comparison.   Now I am at a crossroads because I have the opportunity to leave this group and go to a more conventional schedule:  Monday through Friday where you rotate morning and afternoon ER admits and can leave when you're finished.  I'm worried that the naysayers will be right and that my life will be more stressful if I have the opportunity to leave early because I will be rushing through my work.  On the other hand, there are days here when there really is no need for me to be at work for a 12 hour shift and I feel frustrated that I can't leave when I'm finished.  I also feel that my life needs more stability on a regular basis.  Its difficult to keep up with friends, exercise routines, house work when I'm working 12 hour shifts 50% of the month.  Everything tends to go into disarray when I start my work week and I'm hopeful that can change if I am able to have more time in the evening. 
Has anyone had experience with this dilemma?  Any insight into either schedule?
Thank you. 


  1. i have the same problem! it is also difficult to find childcare, and forget about routines for the poor kid :( i am interested to see the responses....

  2. Whenever I work a few 12 hour shifts in a row I definitely feel like I don't get quality time with my kids (they are 3 yrs old and go to bed at 8 and I am getting home at 7:30). I don't think I could do that for 7 days in a row, even if it were alternating with 7 days off. I guess one question to ask yourself about the other job is -- how efficient are you? There are certain physicians who will need 10 or 12 hours to do what other people complete in 8 hrs. If you think you are still going to have very long days approaching 12 hours then of course there would be no benefit to switching. Would it be possible for you to cut down on the number of shifts you do at your current job?

  3. Every schedule has its own benefits and drawbacks. I would hate the all-or-nothing you have now, but I know people who love it. It's very personal. The kid(s) will adjust if you are happy because in part they feed off your emotions - but if you're miserable, then it's not working.

    I'm very efficient and would do better with the kind of job you're considering switching to *if* the boundaries are well-defined and everyone agrees about them. That means everyone has the same idea of what "done" means, and everyone has the same idea about what will happen with last-minute admits. If you get called 10 minutes before the beeper is handed over, do you see that admit or hand it off to the person coming on? The group culture is everything in that setting.

  4. This is the very reason I didn't do an emergency medicine residency. I couldn't hack the shift work. And if you're anything like your kids, you will love routine more and more. They need it and they thrive in an environment that provides it. As Jay said, the attitude you bring home to them is also very important, but you may not be at your best with the 7 on/off. It may simply be too much with the kids. Why not try out another schedule with a different group. See if it works for your family and if it does, carry on. If it doesn't, well you can always go back to the former, without losing much. Any transition will be difficult in the beginning, but it may be for the better for you and your kids alike.


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