Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Part-time

I work part-time.

Some people think that women who work part-time are ruining medicine and contributing to the physician shortage. So I want to present my very reasonable list of reasons why I work part-time in a flexible job:

1) I am sick constantly. Constantly. My kids are Petri dishes. And it always lasts forever. Even as I'm writing this, I'm coughing and my left ear really hurts and keeps popping. Is it easy to work under these circumstances? Not particularly. Maybe mothers of small kids who work full time have better immunity than me. Or maybe they're just better at working while very sick.

2) I don't have family members who can quickly cover for me in a pinch. Like when the daycare calls, saying my daughter has conjunctivitis and must be picked up NOW NOW NOW. (Literally, I am required to show up within an hour. OR ELSE.) Ideally, I would have a babysitter who waits by their phone, constantly on call for just this situation. Do those exist?

3) If the workday "ends" at 4PM, that's the only way to guarantee making it to the daycare by 6:30PM. I have no back-up if I can't make it.

4) I kind of like having two days off to recover from the week. It's called a weekend. It probably seems crazy luxurious to you, but believe it or not, it's actually sort of normal to most people.

5) When I feel like I'm rushing around and getting pulled in too many directions and expected to do three different jobs at once, I actually get kind of stressed out. And depressed. I don't like feeling that way.

6) There are things I enjoy doing that don't involve medicine OR my kids. And if I work part-time, I get to actually very occasionally do some of them. It's important to me. I feel guilty saying it, but it's true.

7) When I am really stressed out, I am not super pleasant to be around. I start screaming at the top of my lungs and then burst into tears because my daughter won't put her sneakers on in the morning. I'm sure I have inferior stress-compensation (likely genetic) compared to full-timers, but I just hate being like that.

8) I have trouble with night call. I never liked it, but at some point, between waking up for my baby's cries and waking up to a beeping pager, my sleep became very dysfunctional and a major source of stress. I've seen professions to address it, and it's better, but I can't deal with working at night.

9) I don't have the physical stamina you do, apparently. After working a very busy 10 hour day, I am too tired to play with my kids. I was never a high energy person. Somehow, I didn't realize how important this was when I went into medicine. I wish I had the energy, but I simply don't.

10) I am not a Type A personality. I just can't do it all at once. And if I tried, I wouldn't do it well. Does that mean I shouldn't be a doctor?

Trust me, I feel guilty that I can't work the hours some physicians work. Sometimes I wonder what's wrong with me, that I can't seem to juggle the same number of balls as some other women. But I have found a balance of career and family life that seems to work for me.

I'm sorry I'm ruining medicine.

20 comments:

  1. Sounds eminently sensible to me. I hope to help ruin medicine in the future too

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  2. Fizzy, I work part-time too. Just be a honey badger. ;) It does NOT MATTER IN THE LEAST what other people think. (a much nicer way of saying fuck'em)

    I've done full-time solo OB. I've done full-time private practice. That's what my family needed at the time. Nowadays, life is better since I don't work all the freaking time.

    Enjoy your girls being little...because soon enough they'll stand next to you and look you in the eye.

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  3. What is considered part time in the medical world - 40 hours? 50?

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    1. Yeah, 40 hours sounds about right :)

      I probably work 32 hours a week.

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    2. I hope to someday work 40 hour "part time" too.

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    3. Me too because I was so worried that I wouldn't ever have time for kids or my family once I become a pediatrician after medical school and I have 8 out of 10 of the things you listed! I like free-time and also would like to spend time with my family during those times sometimes and also just enjoy life. I will also be ruining medicine in the future!

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  4. Last summer I started working 2 days/wk in an outpatient IM practice - days are about 10h, sometimes finishing paperwork and charting at home but not always. Phone call about 1-2x monthly. I have a 3yo and a 15mo old, and this is so perfect, for all the above. we're all sick all the time, library story time is fun, grocery shopping during the week means we get a family weekend (when my husband's not on call - he's a physician, too). I wouldn't trade it for anything. To people who want to criticize, I tell them that the choice for me is not working FT vs PT, it's working PT vs not working at all at this stage in our lives. And wouldn't that just ruin medicine, especially in primary care . . .

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  5. Thank you Fizzy. I too work part time 3.5 days /week, and I love it. I don't feel guilty however, because I'm happy. I feel that I can be a mom and a doctor too. Some days I feel overwhelmed about listening to all my patients' problems and having to cook/clean up after my 2 little boys, but at least I know I have those "extra" days to recover from the daily grind.

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  6. I think part-timers are very valuable. I know lots of women who have gone part time in medicine as they started families. I also know lots of groups that search out part-timers to supplement older partners who want to go part time but are not quite ready to retire. It's a win-win situation. Pediatrics seems to do this best, as well as allow two part-timers to equal a full-timer, I guess because it is a "caring for kids" dominated field.

    Part time in pathology is hard. A lot of people (hell, women) I know who try part time end up earning the unjustified wrath of their partners since they don't work as hard (they take a huge pay cut!) and get guilted into coming in on their days off to finish cases they are too embarrassed to turf to others. I know someone who jumped back into full time as her kids got older because she said "Part time pathology is like a full time job without the compensation and benefits. It sucks." Hopefully PM&R is better. And I am sure there are some path groups out there that get part time right, but I don't know of any personally.

    I laughed as I read your reasons for choosing part time, mainly because a lot of them rang true as reasons I chose pathology, ha ha.

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    1. Fizzy listed a lot of reasons that also coincide with my interest in pathology! I didn't know there was a stigma to work part-time in path, too. But really, I'm not surprised.

      Fizzy, thanks for sharing all these reasons why you went part-time. Now I know it's not crazy to want these things: medicine, a family, and a life.

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    2. Finding a good job in pathology, which I understand is a little tough in the market today - like many other fields in this economy, is akin to finding a part time job in other fields of medicine. I get most weekends, and am lucky that there are members of my group that want to pick up half my call to supplement their families and lifestyle so I can be there more for my kids. Going in at night is a rare occasion for us all. We have tough weeks; the workflow is unpredictable - but there are many weeks where my load is light and my time is flexible so I can take care of dentist appointments, emergency grocery trips, attend all-important school holiday parties, etc. I love my job. Good luck Allison!

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  7. Which specialties are easier to find part time positions?

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  8. I pretty much work full time, but it feels like part time! I'm an ED physician and I am contracted for 144 hrs per month which is full time for Emergency Medicine, but I typically work about 132 hrs per month, which is just fine by me. Usually comes out to about 12 to 14 shifts per month, which in a typical 30 day month equals 16 to 18 days off. Where I work, there are crazy people who just like to work nights, so I've only had 3 night shifts in the past 4 months and they were all together. I work a lot of afternoons/evenings/weekends, but I love my days off during the week. My husband stays home with our 2 year old little girl so my odd and varying hours haven't been a problem. My goal in life has always been to have more days off than I work. I guess I'm ruining medicine with you! But my family comes first!!

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  9. If I had known part time physicians existed and were happily contributing to medicine I probably would haven considered med school more seriously. I went to PA school because I knew I didn't want to work 50-60 hours per week once I had a family. I'm very happy and blessed with my job, but I think women who balance work and family can be great role models to younger women. Working part time is a great way to find that balance (or at least try). And who knows, maybe you'll go back to full time when your kids are older.

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  10. I am a nurse practitioner and I work part-time. It makes me a nicer person. I am refreshed and eager to listen the next day I am back at work. I have time to take care of myself, to exercise, read and to have a hobby. On my days off, I can do all of the above plus maybe clean off the cluttered counters in the house, run a few errands and get the grocery shopping done for the week. I am able to make all of the big things at my daughters school and we indulge in the occasional after school walk with the dog and cooking dinner together.

    I don't think you need to apologize at all. It's time someone finally redeemed this generation of women of the guilt and inadequacy we have been made to feel from the previous generation who flat out lied and told us we could "have it all."

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  11. And the added benefit of most part-timers is we can and do repeatedly step up to the plate to fill in for the full-timers when they go on vacation or are sick. I totally get it may be different for the MD's but I've seen the benefit of part-timers across the board in this way wherever I've worked and through a variety of professions.

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  12. You're not ruining medicine, you are the future of medicine! And I am too. I work part time and your points rang true for me. Less hours means less stress and more smiles for me to share with my family, my patients, and my coworkers. Not to mention the investment in my daughter's childhood, which is totally irreplaceable.

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  13. I want to ruin medicine, too. Because, then, I won't ruin myself. Thanks Fizzy!

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