As work-life balance becomes more of a stated priority for doctors, they are seeking arrangements that will allow them to meet both personal and professional needs. Practices and physician employers are trying to work with physicians so schedules can work to their mutual benefit.
When it comes to flexible scheduling, young physicians and many medical practices appear to agree on at least one thing: Both find advantages to the four-day workweek.
Squeezing full-time work hours into four rather than five days is the most important flexible scheduling possibility when residents and fellows consider practice opportunities, according to a survey released by Cejka Search, a physician placement firm based in St. Louis.
Researchers surveyed 750 residents and fellows in a wide array of specialties. Half of respondents said the four-day workweek was important or very important, but only 41.9% said the same about job-sharing. Of those surveyed, 37.9% said part time with more than 50% of full-time hours was important or very important, while 29.3% said the same about part time with fewer than 50% of full-time hours.
For physicians, the four-day workweek is a way to have more days off without having to take the pay cut that most likely would come from working part time. Four-day workweeks tend to be easier to set up than job-sharing arrangements, which require willing counterparts. With the same number of hours being covered, it’s possible that a practice would not need to hire additional physicians to cover the workweek.
Good for Recruitment
For health care institutions, which often recruit employed and independent physicians, the four-day workweek is a way to compete for physicians, particularly in rural areas that can be a hard sell to many doctors. Only 6.9% of those in the most recent Cejka survey considered a rural community to be a first choice, and 31.9% wouldn’t consider this kind of setting at all. A total of 52.1% put down metropolitan areas as their first choice, and 43.6% wanted to be in the suburbs.
But 46.7% of those surveyed would consider a community that is not their preferred location in exchange for a more flexible work schedule.
Recruiters say the four-day workweek has become more common over the past two to three years in part because offering money is not necessarily the deciding factor in attracting physicians. “Practices are moving from the compensation conversation and moving toward talking about quality of life, which can be much more attractive at the end of the day,” said Jason Bishop, director of physician recruitment for the upper Midwest with Merritt Hawkins & Associates, a search firm based in Irving, Texas.
Practices also are finding other benefits to the four-day workweek. Health system reform and the trend toward accountable care organizations and patient-centered medical homes have increased the need for physicians to be available in the evenings and weekends. This means it may make sense for a health system to have physicians who care for patients outside of usual business hours.
Source: American Medical News, September 17, 2012.