Are part-time medical practices and job-sharing the answer to health care provider burnout?

Exasperated by the pandemic, burnout has become so prevalent in many medical professions that the World Health Organization has termed “burnout” as an official diagnosis as part of ICD-11.

According to the DO, an informative website for osteopathic physicians, more physicians are choosing to work part-time. The mental and physical stress of working long hours, many of those sitting at a computer on the electronic medical record to endless phone calls for prior authorizations are causing a shift in medicine as younger physicians is looking for a better way to balance their careers and life outside of work.

According to the American College of Physicians (ACP), “Female physicians are taking the lead in reduced work hours, although part-time is increasing for men too “.  Furthermore, the ACP states that “Studies show that patients perceive no difference in quality of care among physicians working over 65 hours per week, 40-65 hours per week, and less than 40 hours per week”. However, physicians who work more than 65 hours per week are significantly less satisfied with the amount of time they can devote to their patients and personal lives. Additionally, studies show that part-time physicians are as productive per hour worked and are more satisfied with their work”.

For several years of my career, I worked while being a single parent. I was fortunate that the organization that I worked for allowed me to work part-time when my children were young, and I was able to gradually increase my time in the office as they grew more independent. While organizations are trying to accommodate nursing working mothers more frequently, no amount of oxytocin makes it easy to pump your milk in an office setting.  Full-time health care providers have the constant struggle of trying to finish the day’s work or being late or missing your child’s game or recital. And where is the time to exercise, sleep enough hours or be home in time to make dinner before 7 pm? The stress of the pandemic is causing health care providers to reflect on the lifestyle as well as the physical and mental health of our profession. As more health care providers and support staff are choosing to look at other career options, now is the time to take a closer look at how a part-time or shared medical practice could benefit the profession and the provider.