According to the American Medical Association, physician burnout has hit an all-time high. 63% of doctors reported some form of burnout during the last major wave of COVID-19 in 2021-2022. While the pandemic has subsided, the stress from all those long hours and caring for so many seriously ill people has caused many doctors to reevaluate their work-life balance and reconsider what working in medicine really means to them.
Let's consider some pros and cons of part-time work for doctors and how they could affect your Return on Life.
PRO: Flexible work options.
If you find that you're regularly working 50 or 60 hours per week, you might be able to reduce your in-clinic days or on-calls hours to give yourself more time to recharge between shifts. You might also try working telemedicine into your practice so that your patients have more options for seeing you.
Another increasingly popular option for overworked doctors is job sharing. Under these arrangements, two or more doctors share the responsibilities and hours of a single Full-Time Equivalent (FTE). For example, you and your colleagues might divvy up days of the week or challenging late night shifts, making the overall workload a little more bearable for everyone.
CON: Reduced work experience.
In any job, if you're working less, you're learning less. Working part-time could slow down your accumulation of experience and proficiency as a physician. And with fewer opportunities to gain exposure to a wide variety of patients, procedures, and technology, you might be placing a cap on your long-term ability to provide the best care for your patients and qualify for better positions in the future. Doctors who have ambitions to open their own practices some day would also be reducing their interactions with other doctors and support staff. It might be harder to transition into an executive roll without those hours in in the trenches working as part of a team and leading other people.
PRO: Time to pursue your passions.
Taking more time away from the office could help you explore the passions that rejuvenate your mind, body, and soul. You might commit to a healthier exercise routine, learn to play an instrument, or become a better cook. On the other hand, you could use reduced hours as a "mini sabbatical" that brings you back in touch with why you wanted to become a doctor in the first place. You could volunteer at a local free clinic, mentor younger doctors, or contribute your time and expertise to peer review or clinical trials.
CON: A longer road to financial independence.
Reducing your hours is also going to reduce how much you're earning. If you drop below certain hourly thresholds, you might also lose benefits such as retirement accounts and even health insurance. Paying for insurance out of pocket and self-funding your retirement will most likely lower your income even further. A smaller salary might also delay your ability to pay back your student loans, buy a house or vehicle, start a family, or open your own practice further down the road. It's possible that moving into a lower tax bracket could open up some alternative financial strategies, but you'll have to work closely with your financial advisor to make sure that decisions you make today aren't seriously limiting your options tomorrow.
The financial benefits of a career in medicine are generally large because the work you do is so important. But those benefits aren’t more important than the total Return on Life you’re receiving from your career. Call us up and we can work though our Life-Centered Planning tools to help you get your life, work, and money back in sync.