Thursday, August 14, 2014

All Holidays

A friend of mine came to me with a dilemma I thought this community could be helpful in solving.

She is a nontraditional student who is midway through medical school. She is going through a divorce and about to become a single parent. For that reason, she asked me if it's possible to have a career in medicine where she could be off during all the school holidays. Not the entire summer, obviously, but during the Christmas break, the winter break, Easter vacation, all the major holidays, and the weeks between camp and school starting.

I told her probably not.

Considering in an earlier post years ago, I was skewered for suggesting that people with young children have some priority in getting to choose which holidays they needed off, I figured she would be burned at the stake for asking for every single holiday off every year. But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe there is some job for physicians that allows you that kind of schedule.

15 comments:

  1. I don't think any such job exists -- anywhere. Even teachers have teacher work days.

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  2. In terms of having all major holidays off (not including "breaks"), a primary care job in a federal government clinic is one possibility.

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  3. In Canada, if you work as a civilian contractor in a military clinic (primary care), you would get holidays off but not all summer. Because you work for the federal govt - so similar to above.
    Would she be willing to work in a non-patient care capacity? As in, at the Ministry of Health (or American equivalent) or something? They often need docs.

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  4. KC, yes!, I was going to say outpatient work at the VA may give you the holidays themselves off, but not the whole week of christmas break. In fact, I can't think of ANY JOB that would guarantee that kind of schedule. Like OMDG said, even teachers have to come in sometimes for training, etc…
    Haven't a part-time outpatient only job would give her the best likelihood of not having to work TOO MANY holidays. Another option would be ER or another speciality that does shifts, where you schedule X amount of shifts per month. Of course, those tend to be longer days, so you can't rely solely on after-school care programs.
    And in any case, she'll have to get through residency first and there certainly isn't a way she can do that without alternative child care arrangements (family help, live-in help, several babysitters and back-ups for the back-ups). After that, a part-time outpatient only job (speciality or primary care), asking well in advance for weeks off needed, but willing to be flexible and use camps/family/babysitters for when she needs to go in. But again, that isn't just medicine, any family where all the involved parents are working (whether 1 or 2) needs to do this.

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  5. In my division, we have a LOT of attendings, so I can theoretically see myself being able to schedule all those weeks off MOST years. But eventually your turn will come up and unless you've negotiated it well in advance, its hard to advocate for ALWAYS having christmas week off.

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  6. I think it would be very hard to find such a job in medicine. You'd have to find a niche that definitely doesn't exist in most specialties and you'd have to make it through training. Is the other partner not staying involved with the kids? Won't the kids spend some holidays with that partner and/or family?

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  7. I'm a single mom, and I think that's a pretty unreasonable request in any job. If you want to work and have kids you need to find back up so you can show up when it is needed. Others should not have to cover for you. Even if your finances are tight you can interview and find help - everyone puts their money where it counts most and kids are important. I know a single mom who got a roommate and paid the bills and most of the rent in return for help with the kids. A bachelor who wants to sit in his sports car and stare at the sunset on his turn for holiday has as much right to that as you do to be there for your kids. It looks like above commenters have offered some pretty flexible solutions that are more ideal for getting holidays but at some point you have to take your turn.

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  8. I worked at the VA and I did not get whole weeks off during Christmas and New Year's or Easter. I just got the holidays themselves off.

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    Replies
    1. Well, you have 30 days of leave that you can request when you want it, but also depends on who else is available to be present peri-federal holiday for that leave to be approved.

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  9. I can understand where your friend is coming from, Fizzy, and perhaps it's a knee jerk reaction to what she's going through. It must be pretty overwhelming to go from two parents to one, and I imagine she might be trying to figure out how she is going to cover all their vacation care by herself. But it would be foolish to go any further in medicine, in my view, hoping against hope for that one elusive job (if it even exists, and I doubt it does), where she won't have to compromise on holidays. The only job I can think of is locum work, where she could pick shifts that fit with her children. But there's a whole lotta pain between now and then. Perhaps as the divorce becomes less new, she will know the path for her and her family.

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  10. I'm in primary care doing outpatient only and I get all public holidays off. You could schedule to take vacations during your kids' school holidays, but it would depend on who else is in your group so that it can all be coordinated, but I imagine it would be extremely difficult to be guaranteed all school holidays since everyone else with kids would want the same holidays off. Maybe there would be a bit more flexibility in hospitalist work or ED/urgent care.

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  11. Outpatient psychiatry. Amazingly flexible. No call. Wonderful!

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  13. I work in a pediatrics group part-time. My husband works in another group and gets more public holidays than what my group offers. I get 4 weeks vacation off a year and tend to use 2 weeks to cover the kids' spring break and 2 weeks for the summer. However, that leaves many weeks where the kids are off from school and I have to work. The last 2 years, I have asked for 2 weeks off for Christmas. I will not ask for that time off again this year as it would be unfair to my colleagues. I find the hardest thing about being a working parent is managing childcare coverage but I don't feel I, as a parent, should have first dibs for vacation requests at work. I think, besides from per diem/locums work, it would be difficult for your friend to have so much time off as employment contracts usually specify a certain amount of vacation time--I know most people get 4-5 weeks off a year. My outpatient psych friend who works for a large group get 5 weeks off a year. Working part-time offers some flexibility but at the same time, the pay may be measly and pay may be very important for a single parent. I work 40 hours a week and get paid half as much as my full-time colleagues (60 hours a week on average). Without my husband, I cannot afford working part-time.

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  14. I am a regular reader, but I've never commented before. But this question struck a cord with me so I had to answer. Fizzy I would advise asking your friend exactly what is it that she imagines being able to accomplish (with herself, child, family, work, personal life, etc) with having all the major holidays off. By having a better understanding of this you maybe better able to advise her how to then go about accomplishing those things. Job options aren't black and white, they are what one makes of them. For example, I've worked as a primary care Internist for a few years and in our practice our group utilized a hospitalist group for all inpatient & ER care. Hence on major holidays, one primary care doc was on call for the group by phone, while the rest enjoyed their holiday (no clinic, no call). And we took turns as the year went on. In our scenerio, the only major "work" done during the holidays was literally replying back to phone calls, if anything was serious, we advised the patient to go to the ED. Once I was on call on during a major holiday, I still took a trip out of town and managed to answer my calls, although it was a bit disruptive, but I imagined it as sharing the workload. Currently I am working as a per diem hospitalist (12-hour Intermal Medicine hospitalist shifts), which means I pick my own shifts. As others have said, the pay isn't a lot, but enough, but I get to be home when I want and work when I have help with our kiddo. So in your friend's scenerio, she maybe imagining being home with her child on all major holidays and that can be done as I have described in both my job positions, but its just a matter of her thoroughly researching the major fields of medicine and becoming creative. She may find that she maybe able to accomplish what she wants to do without having to negotiate the dreaded "being home during all major holidays" clause in her contract. Good wishes for all.

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