Want to Work as a Part-Time Physician? Here’s Your Chance

October 7, 2011

The number of physicians who worked part time increased nearly 10 percent between 2005 and 2010.

Sleeping in a few days a week, spending dinner at home with your family, coaching your son’s soccer team … sounds like a far-off dream? Perhaps it’s closer than you think - as long as you’re willing to make the financial sacrifices that come with it.

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 their work hours.

After all, one part-time physician is better than no physician, Tommy Bohannon, vice president of hospital-based recruiting at physician search firm Merritt Hawkins & Associates, told American Medical News.

"People are coming around and realizing [flexibility in physician work hours] is necessary,” Bohannon said. “We don't have enough doctors, and we're not going to have enough any time soon."

The numbers show just how much practices and hospitals are coming around.

The number of physicians who worked part time (under 40 hours per week) increased nearly 10 percent between 2005 and 2010, according to the 2010 Physician Retention Survey by physician recruiting firm Cejka Search and the American Medical Group Association.

And while more practices and hospitals are becoming more amenable to part-time physicians, more and more physicians are finding part-time work appealing, Judy Bee, principal at Practice Performance Group, a consulting firm, told Physicians Practice.

Bee suspects the number of physicians who are female has increased in the past few years, and she says, females are often more eager to work part time when raising families.

In addition, Bee says, younger physicians have seen their “mentors” miss out on their personal and family lives due to demanding work schedules, and they don’t want to make the same sacrifices.

“More and more of the new population of doctors do want to work but they want to control it,” Bee says.

The recession is also playing a role in the part-time physician increase. According to a recent study, 32 percent of physicians forced to delay their retirements as a result of the recession said they plan to continue working part time.

Bee says it’s important that practices keep an open mind when approached by physicians seeking part-time work, or when one of their physicians expresses an interest in cutting back hours.

“It is a mistake for senior physicians to discount doctors who want to work less than they do,” she says. “They sometimes say, ‘Well, I’m looking for a partner or I’m looking for an associate, but I’m not going to work with these people that don’t want to work.’”

Just because a physician wants to work part time doesn’t mean he isn’t as invested in the practice as the other physicians, Bee says.

In addition, part-time physicians can bring some great perks to practices, Patrick Alguire, senior vice president for medical education at the American College of Physicians, noted in a statement.

“Part-time physicians can lessen the office workload for practitioners with busy in-patient services, increase the capacity for work-in patients, and allow extended office hours,” Alguire said.

If you are a physician considering cutting back your hours, stay tuned. Next week we’ll post some tips to make the transition easier for your practice.

In the meantime, if you have recently cut back your work hours; share your tips and advice for a successful transition in the comments section below.