By Jennifer Larson, contributor Jan 28, 2019
Is it possible for women physicians and advanced
practitioners—especially those with kids—to have it all? Or are they likely to
feel guilty, no matter what they do?
Working in one of the most demanding professions, many women in
medicine are rising to the challenge and discovering ways to achieve a work–life balance that works for them.
Some choose part-time
physician jobs for a period of time while they care for small
children, which may involve job sharing or another alternative work model. Some
choose the flexibility of a locum tenens position,
which can be part-time or full-time, and can allow them to stay home or travel
somewhere new. Others find ways to incorporate stress-relief strategies into
their daily lives to enable them to maintain whatever schedule they’ve chosen
Yet their chosen strategies often change over time.
“Work–life balance doesn’t
have just one definition. It’s very fluid,” noted Monisha Bhanote, MD, a physician
practicing in San Diego, California. “It’s more of creating a state of
If one solution or choice doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to try
“Try your best to change it, even if you have to find another job,”
said Malini Reddy, MD, an internal medicine physician with the Reddy Medical
Group in Athens, Georgia. “I think you need to find the balance that makes you
LOCUM JOBS that suit your schedule.
More women entering the
Finding work–life balance is
likely to be an issue for even more women physicians in the near future, as the
number of women entering medical school continues to climb.
According to statistics released in December 2018 from the Association
of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), women represented the majority of new
medical students (51.6 percent) in 2018 for the second year in a row.
Men still make up the majority of the U.S. physician workforce,
however. Data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, reported in October 2018, showed
the current composition is around 35 percent women and 65 percent men.
Feeling the strain?
Medicine can be a demanding career, regardless of gender. Burnout is a
very real problem for both men and women in medicine, though women physicians report
a higher incidence.
According to the 2018
Survey of America’s Physicians, compiled by Merritt Hawkins on
behalf of The Physicians Foundation, women
physicians tend to work slightly fewer hours than their male colleagues:
50.5 hours per week on average compared to 51.9 hours.
Yet 28.5 percent of the women surveyed reported feeling “overextended
and overworked,” compared to 21.5 percent of the men. Plus, more women physicians
reported feeling that they “often” or “always” had feelings of burnout: 45.4
percent compared to 37.5 percent for their male counterparts.
These higher percentages indicate that women may need to devise their
own unique solutions to create that healthy balance in their lives.
RELATED: The Leading
Cause of Physician Burnout
Work–life balance: Find what works for you
“You have to prioritize what works for you, because if you don’t, you
will wind up on that burnout train,” said Dorothy Russ, MD, a family medicine
physician in Jacksonville, Florida.
She has curated a blend of several part-time jobs that allow her the
balance that she needs. She works full shifts as a primary care physician on
Mondays and Tuesdays. During the rest of the week she often picks up a shift or
two at a local urgent care center. And she is able to pick up a few part-time shifts
as a telemedicine provider.
The blend works for her because it allows her some flexibility over her
life, for situations like caring for a sick family member or enjoying
opportunities like attending her son’s class Halloween party.
Work-life balance doesn’t necessarily mean achieving the perfect
balance every day, said Inna Husain, MD, assistant professor in the department
of otolaryngology at Rush University Medical Center.
Instead, she tries to consider the bigger picture. She carefully
considers her calendar and schedules both work and “fun” things. Husain and her
husband, who is also a physician, collaborate to make sure that childcare is
covered, and sometimes they trade off who’s the lead parent for childcare.
“This balance does not exist on a daily basis, but my goal is to
achieve this on a weekly basis,” she said.
Reddy has also found balance between part-time work and sharing
household responsibilities with her husband, who’s also a physician. She sees
patients all day on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but leaves early on Mondays and
Wednesdays so she can spend time with her young daughter. Her husband has
structured his schedule so he can spend Tuesday afternoons with their daughter,
while she is seeing patients.
Bhanote has found that teaching yoga is one way that helps her maintain
a healthy work–life balance, and she structures private lessons that fit in
around her day job.
“It gives me time to slow down and regain that perspective and to focus
on something else,” she said.
CARE matches physicians and advanced practitioners
with part-time and full-time locum tenens jobs around the country. ASK
A RECRUITER about jobs that fit your lifestyle and career goals.
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