Tuesday, May 27, 2014

MiM Mail: Is part-time possible?

Hello MiM,

First of all, thank you for publishing this blog! Reading your posts has helped me to feel less alone in the crazy world of being a mother in medicine.

I am a third year medical student with a 3.5 month old daughter. I've been back at my clerkships since she was 8 weeks old and have found myself pretty miserable. I hate being away from her while I am working, and I hate that when I come home I am often too tired to do much more than nurse her and hand her back to my husband. Our hope has been that after residency I will be able to work part-time, but recently I've been wondering if that will be possible. I'm interested in pediatrics/psychiatry/child psychiatry, which I know are considered to be more "family friendly" fields. But I'm starting to despair that even in one of those specialties I will not be able to find a job that will allow me to spend significant amounts of time with my family, especially while my daughter (and hopefully her future siblings) are young.

I'm wondering what your experiences are with trying to work part-time in medicine. Is this dream possible? How significantly might it limit potential for career growth? I'd also be interested to hear from those who have chosen paths other than clinical work (research, administration, education, etc). Are these areas more flexible?

Thank you for your comments!

Katie (MS3)

10 comments:

  1. Is this dream possible? Absolutely! I'm living it and LOVING it right now! I work part-time as an anesthesiologist in a busy academic practice. I am currently at 70% effort, but there are many other women and even some men who also have contracts at less than 100% effort; these range from 50% to 92%. I have three children; my oldest is now 5 and was born halfway through my PGY-2 year. I have found the part time appointment I have to be nearly perfect for my family currently. Without a doubt, working makes me appreciate my children more and at the same time, being home makes me also appreciate my job! Given how close I was to quitting residency (seriously, VERY close, middle of my PGY-3 year), there are days that I honestly can hardly believe how great things are for me and my family now. I am so glad I stuck it out; the end reward has definitely been great. You asked how part-time status might limit career growth...well that is the downside; it definitely does. How much somewhat depends on what you are willing to sacrifice- if I were willing to spend many hours on nights/weekends (i.e. after kids in bed) working on academic projects, my career would probably be farther along. However, at this point with young children, I have made the choice to put my efforts toward their care rather than my career. I realize that I will never be my department's chair nor be considered for most other positions with an important sounding title for that matter, but at the end of the day, that is not what drives me nor makes me happy. I have a worthwhile career, have the opportunity to positively and profoundly impact hundreds of patients, all while spending significant amounts of time with my children. Being an attending is unbelievably better than being a trainee; hang in there, it IS possible!

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  2. It is possible. i am also an anesthesiologist, and I went into my job search telling people that I ideally wanted to work 3 days/week. Some places were willing to start me per diem, but I found a job at the academic institution where I trained that guaranteed me 3 days/week. Not only that, but I have no call or weekend duties. It's perfect... FOR ME. I have no chance of a tenure track advancement, and I make less $ by working less on top of being at an academic hospital vs. private practice. But it is worth the downsides to me.

    I recommend being up front with people and just be willing to take "no" for an answer. You can find the right situation for you!

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  3. This question gets asked a lot, and I enjoy answering it every time from new experience. In pathology, the characteristics I see in women that do successful part time are those willing to move around to find a good fit and those willing to really stick to their guns when negotiating for a job - willing to say no if necessary. The two women I am thinking about seem very happy.

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  4. I do family medicine at a community health center...no call, just clinic. Started at 4 tens and now down to 3 eight hour shifts a week. I make about half what my call taking full time colleagues make, but most of them also have a stay at home spouse, and my husband works. At this point in my life, career advancement is not my focus... I do nothing extra at my work that I don't get compensated for...my goal is my family (4 kids ages 12 to 5 months). Being a mom is part of who I am, what defines me; being a physician, at least at the current time, is my job. I still have a passion for it, but is something I DO, not who I AM. It is definitely possible, I am even still able to get loan repayment working part time through the government. But you have to prioritize... we have the rest of our lives to practice medicine; we only have a few short years to enjoy our kids and play the huge role of shaping their world and preparing them for life.

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  5. It's absolutely possible (though depends a bit on your financial situation). In my field (anesthesia) a ton of people work part time in both academics and in private practice. It's definitely also possible in peds and psychiatry. I even know of people doing part time residencies in pediatrics, where they have off every other to ever third month and extend their residencies by 1-3 years. You may give up some things (tenure track, advancement potential), but if those things appeal to you, I also know of women who have opted back into those things once their kids were a little older, too.

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  6. It can work in Emergency Medicine. After finishing residency, I first worked about 3/4 time for three years then 1/2 time for the past 6 years. This works out to be 7-8 twelve hour shifts per month for me. My kids are 6 and 9 years old and it has been a great balance.

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  7. (Psychiatry resident speaking here) Totally possible! Especially in this field. Not only can you do part-time once you are an attending (I know of many women psychiatrists who do this) but residency itself isn't as brutal as in other specialties. Psychiatry is definitely a family friendly field, and as many times as I've considered quitting myself because of frustration on a 24-hour call that makes me miss my husband and my Doll, I'm glad I haven't yet. My husband and I discuss probably weekly how absolutely miserable medical school was for me, how many nights I cried that I should quit and it's not for me, and how I feared that my children wouldn't know their mother. But several years later, I'm happy to say my Doll does know me and we do get to spend time together. And I'm so happy I chose psychiatry because with the exception of dermatology, this quality of life is probably unattainable in any other field.

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  8. It's definitely possible in pediatrics. I finished chief year almost a year ago and have taken time off since then to be with my daughter, now 9 months. In August, when she's almost a year, I'm starting in private practice, alternating 2/3 days of clinic weekly with call. Since I haven't worked since having my baby I can't speak to how the balance happens (or doesn't), but during my job search everyone I spoke with was open to part time. Once you're out of residency your practice options become so much more flexible, so don't let a desire to work less than full time keep you out of medicine. Realistically it may influence your choices about specialty/career, but if being home with with children is a priority there are still many ways to practice. I also would totally recommend an extended leave if you can swing it; I feel incredibly blessed to have had this year with my little girl.

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  9. It is possible. Even in residency. There are people, there are mothers, who have done it. The NRMP even has a way to enter the match as a pair. The trick is finding a partner. I looked of over two years for a partner and was unable to find one. I am staring a full time peds residency in a couple of weeks. Even though I was not successful I would be happy to share

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  10. I think it is possible in many more fields now. I have been out of Ob/gyn residency almost a decade and am now becoming an Ob/gyn hospitalist. I have 4 kids 8 and under and a working husband. Fulltime is 5 24 hour shifts a month!

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