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Why the trend of part-time physicians is growing in medicine 

Why the Trend of Part-Time Physician is Growing in Medicine

The traditional image of a full-time physician—working long hours and available around the clock—is undergoing a transformative shift. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the medical profession is witnessing an increasing trend of part-time doctors. This development has implications not only for the doctors themselves, but also for patient care, hospital administration, and the broader healthcare system.  

A rising number of physicians are opting for part-time roles, citing reasons ranging from work-life balance to the pursuit of personal interests or entrepreneurial ventures. It’s a change that’s being driven not just by younger doctors entering the workforce with different priorities, but also by older physicians approaching retirement, who prefer to gradually reduce their hours.  

A key factor influencing this trend is the high burnout rate among physicians. The demanding nature of the profession, combined with the administrative burden associated with healthcare bureaucracy, has led to a high degree of burnout. Part-time work allows physicians to reduce stress, avoid burnout, and ultimately, deliver better patient care.  

This trend is also seen as a potential strategy to address the physician shortage problem. By making the profession more flexible and attractive, it could draw more doctors to practice and retain those considering early retirement. Moreover, job sharing and shift work can ensure coverage without overburdening individual physicians.  

However, the rise of part-time doctors is not without challenges. It can pose logistical issues for hospitals in terms of scheduling and continuity of care. Additionally, it could potentially impact the physician-patient relationship, which is often built on consistency and familiarity. 

In a recent poll of 1,200+ global Sermo physicians, 77% said they noticed an increasing trend of part-time physicians in their medical community. 

91% believe that working part-time can help reduce physician burnout. 

89% believe part-time roles could attract more doctors to practice and retain those considering early retirement, helping to address the physician shortage problem. 

62% believe that working part-time can impact the quality of patient care. 

When asked about the primary reasons that are driving physicians towards part-time work, here is how the physicians responded: 

Said better work-life balance 
Said reducing stress and avoiding burnout 
11% said gradual transition into retirement 
Said pursuit of personal interests or entrepreneurial ventures 

Here is more of what Sermo physicians have to say on this topic—their medical perspectives and opinions—in their own words: 

“Any doctor who works only in the office with fixed hours and doesn’t do hospital medicine is in my opinion “part time.”

Internal Medicine, U.S. 

“There are many reasons to work part-time for doctors, including to have a better balance between work life, family and extra-work interests. There are also doctors who work part time as they are dedicated to academic projects. On the other hand, in some developing countries, part-time work emerges as a necessity since health personnel carry out extra-work activities in order to cover the wage gap.”

Psychiatry, Venezuela 

“Work-life balance is critical BUT so is maintaining continuity of care for our patients as well as maintaining a level of competency in your chosen field.”

Neurology, U.S. 

“Most people value their time more than money this day and age, working full time is exhausting, the part time doctor trend will continue growing.”

Otolaryngology, Mexico 

“If it is a private practice, It should be a group practice, so it is a win—win situation for both doctors & patient.”  

Pediatrics, India

“The trouble I have with part-time docs as partners (being that I am full-time), is that when I’m here more than they are, I (by default) inherit a disproportionate share of the “extra” flotsam (patient calls, letters, forms to sign, questions to answer, med refills, etc., etc., etc.) during all the hours that I am here and they are not. This, in turn, affects the quality of MY personal life and time that I devote to MY patients and family. Starting with restrictions on resident work hours while in training, I fear that we are moving from a generation of doctors who have a care-for-patients mentality to doctors who have a shift-worker (my-shift-is-over-I’m-leaving) mentality. The doc-in-a-box (treat-’em-&-street-’em) is becoming the norm for health “care”, resulting in less actual “care” & worse actual health.”

Pediatrics, U.S. 

“Primary care physicians are paid 8 hour days, 40 hours per week. However, in order to complete computer work, administrative work per day, they have to work an additional 2-3 hours per day or 10 to 15 hours per week unpaid. This is the main cause of burnout.”

G.P., U.S. 

“For those who are able to have such an arrangement, it seems like a no-brainer.”

Internal Medicine, U.S. 

“I think being able to work part time actually creates better care for patients. Physicians are not as stressed. Happier physicians, make happier patients.”

Emergency Medicine, U.S. 

“It is a good idea, one that I implemented a decade ago. Unfortunately, the hospital, situated in the PNW, was a toxic working environment. After I left, I heard thru the grapevine that the CEO, Medical Director & other great leaders were fired. Toxic work environments do not get mitigated by part-time work. Back in private group now.”

Dermatology, U.S. 

“Let’s not forget that we are human beings capable of feeling, with our own life, interests, hobbies, family… remember that being a doctor is your profession, but it does not define who you are… let’s learn to value quality time with ourselves or loved ones.”

G.P., Mexico 

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