Thursday, November 2, 2017

MiM Mail: How to ask for part-time?

I'd love for advice on the topic below. Thanks MiM!

I recently started my first attending job (anesthesiologist). I interviewed at many hospitals and ran the exhaustive lists of pros and cons with my husband before accepting a position at a large, academic tertiary care hospital near extended family. My reasons for picking this position were many, but a large part was the better work/life balance it seemed to offer over the private practice model (some private groups were regularly working 80 hours/week!).

Fast forward to now, when despite this being my best option, I'm still working 60 hours a week, my husband is still working full time, we are struggling to manage the day-to-day shuffle of having two kids. It's just as exhausting as residency! I need to cut back my hours for my own mental health and for my family, but how? I'm the newest attending. I'm the youngest attending. I'm female. I fear the "mommy track" label that will come with it, despite the fact that I will still be working more than 40 hours/week. I also resent the massive pay cut to work what any other professional would call full time.

I can get over all of my misgivings, but I'd love advice from people who have had this talk with their bosses. When is acceptable to ask? How long do I have to wait? How did you do it?

Thanks, ladies!


  1. There are attendings where I work (as an anesthesia resident) who do 3 or 4 days per week with a commensurate cut in pay. Not sure whether that's the case at your institution or not. One of them still has administrative responsibilities and is on the promotion track. Others are not. The one who is promotion track sometimes complains that she has to come in on her off day for meetings, but otherwise seems to be doing fine. It only feels like a massive pay cut because you already make a lot. I would start by gathering information about what others are doing and thinking about what you want vs. what you'd be willing to give up. The good news is that scaling up again probably wouldn't be that difficult if you ever needed the money. Also thank you for pointing out that attending life as an anesthesiologist isn't super cush where we make 500k for 40h per week of work. It's a common misconception.

  2. Ugh I have no answers but I can empathize with path. I've never worked part time, but I have a great job where when not on call it's always 40 hr/week. I know of two female pathologists who have tried part time and end up resenting it so much because they work almost full time, partners label and resent them, and they are getting less pay and benefits. One jumped around many Ivy League academic institutions and last I talked to her was finding balance at Cleveland Clinic. Good luck and I hope you get some practical advice here.

  3. I work part time as an anesthesiologist at a large tertiary academic center. I can't give advice for this exact situation of coming in full time and quickly asking for part time because I started part time off the bat. But if your institution is anything like mine, I would think that it would be easier to ask for part time now vs. in a private practice where everything is about $$$. I recently went to my department head and asked to decrease my hours to even more part time, and I was successful. You just have to go for it, time your meeting well (like don't do it if they have been complaining about being understaffed in faculty meeting but maybe after they've brought in another new hire??), and be prepared for them to say no. In my opinion, the worst thing that can happen is that they say no and things continue as they are. Try to not care what "they" think of you (the only one who will hear your request is your department head anyway) and be strong with your desires. You can reach out to me (DM through my blog) if you want to talk further about this.

  4. I went part-time and I'm not looking back during the peak toddler and baby years. I'll reconsider when they are older. Best decision ever! Wishing you the best. Just ask - don't apologize. Give your reasons and then just sit and wait for an answer. Go over it with a trusted friend, an assertive woman or assertive man (super weird to say but I often go over things with my husband or male attending friends and they are always like - what are you apologizing for? why would you say it like that? you are giving too many details!)


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