The benefits, drawbacks of part-time physicians

While some leaders credit part-time work with keeping physicians in the fields, they grapple with how best to keep morale up while still providing patient care.

The concentration of part-time physicians has fluctuated throughout the last two decades. In 2005, only 13 percent of physicians were working 20 to 29 hours per week, compared with 2011, when part-time physicians made up 21 percent of the physician workforce, Medscape reported May 9.

Here, five leaders talk about the benefits and drawbacks to having more part-time physicians:

Note: Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Doug Bruce, MD. Chief Clinical Integration Officer at MetroHealth (Cleveland): Part-time work makes scheduling more complicated. Where we need three full-time people we may have six or seven part-timers because you're piecing together time to cover that unit. It gets complicated sometimes accommodating people who want that work-life balance. For example, if they say "I don't want to work on Friday," then we have to wonder, "Can I hire someone just to cover Friday?" It's very challenging. There's this middle road of wanting to be maximally flexible because our goal is to hire people and for them to stay with us long term, but we also need to be able to cover the hours of operation. I think greater complexity has become one of the things that we're wrestling with.

Providers feel burdened. I think medicine is inherently stressful — I always tell people if you're an anxious person, don't go into healthcare. The pandemic may have officially ended, but the emotional trauma and energy expended with that still carries forward. If you're exhausted, you're still exhausted. We've got to be creative about how we address that burden, and some of it is taking burdens away. The big thing that we're working on is "if you don't need to do it, why are you doing it? Let's get somebody else to do it." 

Robert Hart, MD. Chief Physician Executive at Ochsner Health (New Orleans):

Part-time physicians may change the pool that we have to work with and the number of physicians that we actually have to hire. Obviously the patients don't go away, so we've got to somehow be able to meet the demand. 

Melissa Love. Vice President of Professional Staff Services at Ochsner Health (New Orleans): The greatest change we've seen is more dialogue between physician leaders and physicians of "here's what I'm trying to do." There's discussion about how we can support physicians, make adjustments while still supporting our patient population. How do we as departments make adjustments for physicians, if we can, so physicians don't have to cut back hours. There's a lot of conversation around how that can happen.

Kim Moore, MD. Chief Medical Officer at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health (Seattle): Like other health systems, we've seen part-time roles help to attract, retain talent and ensure continuity of care for our patients. This is because part-time work can provide the flexibility that many providers are looking for, particularly in this post-pandemic world. Anecdotally, we know that some providers who were considering pursuing other opportunities, decided to stay in their roles because they were offered part-time work. This not only ensured we retained a valuable team member but enabled a continuity of care for their patients. In general, part-time work has been extremely beneficial as it has ultimately increased job satisfaction and retention.

Meera Udayakumar, MD. Chief Medical Officer at UNC Health Rex (Raleigh, N.C.): It's overall though positive for our organization and the benefits for us have been the ability to develop nonclinical talent for those physicians who are taking on another role, and they can bring a valuable clinical perspective to other areas. Then there's the benefit of retention and better work-life balance for those physicians. We recognize that physicians who feel more fulfilled at their job will be more likely to stay and ultimately take better care of them. So I can see that benefit both as the CMO who works with other physicians and personally as a physician who's held multiple part-time roles.

The challenges come from a management perspective such as scheduling, onboarding and communication, but those are not insurmountable barriers.

Copyright © 2024 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars