How Part-Time Physicians Can Thrive in Medical Practices

October 13, 2011

The transition from full time to part time can be a difficult one. Here's how to make it work for you and your practice.

Due to the physician shortage, more and more practices and hospitals are willing to hire part-time physicians, and they’re more willing to accept their current physicians’ requests to cut back work hours.

But the transition from full time to part time can be a difficult one. Practice revenue can dip and a part timer can leave other physicians in the practice resentful and disgruntled.

When you or a fellow physician at your practice needs to cut back, a little extra planning on the front-end can help ensure the arrangement works long term.

The first step in making it work is defining what part time will mean at your practice, according to American Medical News. This includes outlining compensation, hours, partner status, benefits, etc.

"At a minimum, groups need to think through the economic implications, call schedules and compensation,” Jon-David Deeson, a healthcare consultant and part owner of Pershing Yoakley & Associates in Knoxville, Tenn., says in the article. “There are high fixed costs in a physician practice, so it's not an automatic decision without careful planning."

Compensation

If a physician is working part time, “it’s only fair” that their compensation reflects that, Judy Bee, principal at consulting firm Practice Performance Group, told Physicians Practice. An easy way to do that, she says, is by tying total compensation to work RVUs and/or collections.

Bee, a former practice administrator, says it’s also important that part-time physicians are responsible for an equal share of the on-call burden. That’s a fair policy she says, and it will help minimize some of the resentment from other full-time physicians at the practice.

Of course, whether the part timer will receive partial benefits, full benefits, or no benefits, also need to be worked out beforehand.

Fair Share

It’s very important that a part-time physician pulls his weight at the practice, Bee says. For instance, his partners can’t be expected to field his telephone calls or prescription renewal requests when he’s out of the office.

She suggests that on the physician’s day(s) off, he still call the office twice a day to listen to his messages and forward them appropriately, if necessary.

Part-time physicians also need to inform their patients that they are not in the office five days a week, Bee says. As a result, their non-urgent calls might not be returned as quickly.

It’s also important that practices define how much practice overhead a part timer is responsible for, American Medical News points out. Whether it’s an equal share or not will depend on how your particular practice defines “fair.”

Consider Hiring a Nurse Practitioner or Physician Assistant

NPs and PAs are “called physician extenders for a reason,” Bee says, “that’s exactly what they do.” These employees are great addition to a practice to supplement and aid a part-time physician, she says.

When the physician is out of the office, the extender can assist with and care for the physician’s patients, (provided that there’s someone available to supervise her and that the policy adheres to the legal guidelines in the state).

This employee can also serve as a point of contact for the physician when he is out of the office.

Consideration

Part-time physicians can cut resentment from coworkers by taking on less popular tasks, working less appealing shifts, or contributing special skills, according to American Medical News.

In other words, since the part timer does not work as much as the other physicians, he should make up for it in other ways.

At a practice cited in American Medical News, some part-timers rotate days to help out when needed most. If part timers need set schedules each week, they are required to work at least one of their days on a Monday or a Friday. This allows the full-time physicians to take off for longer weekends more frequently.

Have you or one of your fellow physicians recently transitioned to part-time work? How have you made it work for your practice? Share your advice below.