Part-Time Physician Options: What Medical Practices Need to Know

February 26, 2014

As demand for part-time schedules increases among physicians, medical practices that don't offer flexibility will struggle with recruitment and retention.

A recent survey of more than 1,500 practicing physicians, asked respondents to rate the importance of factors that affect their sense of engagement in their practices.

Respect for a physician’s time, training, and talent permeated their responses. More than half of the physicians surveyed strongly agreed (with a rating of 10 out of 10) that their sense of engagement is influenced by “good work/life balance” and “a voice in how their time is structured and used.”

These ratings underscore the need for healthcare organizations to recognize each individual physician’s lifestyle needs. Offering flexibility to physicians pays off two-fold by one, increasing engagement and retention of current physicians and two, attracting new talent to the organization.

Part-Time Schedules: From Incentive to Expectation
Let’s take a closer look at why flexible scheduling is important and how you can incorporate this incentive into your recruitment package. In a 2013 survey of residents and fellows, newly trained physicians rated flexible scheduling as an important factor in their decision to accept a job offer, and half said that a better call schedule or shorter work schedule would entice them to consider a practice that is not in their preferred location.

Meanwhile, 83 percent of medical group administrators said they offer a less-than-full-time work schedule and 73 percent offer a four-day full-time work schedule, according to the American Medical Group Association and Cejka Search 2012 Physician Retention Survey.

So, more and more physicians are expecting this incentive, and therefore more groups are offering it. With physician shortages and difficult-to-fill positions, there is a war for top talent - can you afford to ignore the demand for flexible part-time schedules?

How Can I Make Part-Time Schedules Work for My Practice?
At the same time, you must balance the needs of your practice and patients with the needs of candidates. Making it a win-win for both parties is the ideal situation. In order to make any scheduling policies work, first establish clear work expectations for part-time physicians.

Determine in advance how you will schedule part-time physicians, how they will be compensated and how they will be expected to handle administrative responsibilities. For example, will you recruit for a set schedule in order to supplement high-volume patient days, or will physicians decide which days they will work? Also consider whether overhead expenses will be divided equally among part-time and full-time physicians, or if compensation will be adjusted based on a physician’s schedule.

By establishing these policies and expectations, all stakeholders - including candidates, current physicians, patients and the practice itself - can maximize their success with part-time physician schedules.

Many people are struggling with this issue - are there are any innovative ideas that you have implemented that you’d be willing to share with others? How do you balance the needs of the practice with the needs of part-time physicians?