Recently, Crispy Doc ran an interview with Vagabond MD that highlighted his road to part-time work. This struck a cord with me as I’ve considered doing the same despite being in my second year as an attending physician. In fact, Crispy Doc and I had a conversation about achieving work life balance through part time work in Orlando at FinCon18.
When I came home after the conference, I ran into one of our staff members who is responsible for scheduling and had a simple question: Are there any other men in our department that are part-time?
The answer was unsurprising: Not a single male anesthesiologist less than the typical retirement age was part-time.
My vision of part-time would have one of two looks, in my mind:
(1) a clinical reduction in my workload (to be able to focus more on other aspects of my job that simply need more time – like the personal finance curriculum I am creating at Wake Forest)
(2) going to 80-90% of an FTE (Full-Time Equivalent) to allow for a few more days off each month.
[TPP Update: As it turns out, much of the stress I was feeling at the time I originally wrote the following post was caused by undiagnosed Grave’s disease. The anxiety, stress, and irrability calmed down once my TSH was actually detectable in my blood. Thank goodness for good primary care docs making a diagnosis, and a wonderful endocrinologist sorting it out!
Still, I think the point of this post rings true. Part time work can be a part of the solution to the burnout and moral injury that many of us experience.]
Why Should I Care?
After finding out that no other men in the department were part-time, it bothered me at first. Would I look weak? Then, it dawned on me later that it probably shouldn’t matter to me what others at work will think if I go part-time. After all, being a man to my family should matter more than what others think about it at work.
I’ve gotten to the point where I care very little about the expectations that others set for me. This includes expectations about my job, my career trajectory, or about what it means to be a full-time working man who has a family.
That’s not to say that I don’t value the opinions of others that are wiser than me and with more experience. It is just that what I want out of this life might be very different than what others have desired. My career is following a different path.
I simply want to pursue what I am passionate about and to have enough time to do that while balancing my home life. I intend to pursue Partial FIRE to solve these problems. With my wife starting a full-time job in July, my work-life balance got kicked square in the face. So, part time work has become something I’ve spent considerable time thinking about.
Why would I consider going part-time? What problems will this solve? Those are great questions, and something I’ve given a lot of thought to, but never written down in words.
How would going part-time help me? Here are the first five answers that came to me.
1. A Better Husband and Dad
Since the end of the last academic year, I’ve been an absolute grouch. The reason is that I was ending a three month rotation in the general OR when we were short-staffed. With little academic time, this all compounded into a mess. Particularly when my wife started back full-time. It felt like getting sucker-punched right after running a marathon.
What I noticed on my rare off days was interesting, too. I acted more like myself. On the occasions that I had more than a day or two off, my wife would even say things like, “There’s the man that I married… I was wondering where he went.”
Ouch. Here’s your sign, Jimmy.
Not only was I more pleasant to be around during my time off, but I was also more helpful.
The days off gave me the opportunity to help around the house. I could go shopping, cook dinner, and have it ready when my wife got home. Cleaning the dishes didn’t seem like such a chore aymore. Why? Because I had time during the day to get other stuff done that was weighing on me.
Going part-time could help make me a better dad and husband, I think.
I’d end up being more helpful around the house instead of resenting my wife for getting off work late (again) – which isn’t fair given my line of work and the number of times I’ve been later than anticipated.
2. A Better Physician
Having more time would allow me to have more opportunities to pursue the things that I am truly passionate about. With an ever growing to-do list, it becomes difficult sometimes to have enough hours in the day to get it all done.
I am constantly yearning for more time to get things done including the personal finance curriculum, research, teaching, and work on The Physician Philosopher blog. Going part-time would provide more time for all of this.
The hospital doens’t always love us back. This can get old when we are there constantly. With more time away, I’d have more energy coming back to work. This would allow for better patient care, research, and teahcing.
3. A Better Researcher/Scientist
Right now, my research efforts have come to a screeching halt compared to where they were in my last years of training and my first year as an attending physician. While I help with the studies that my colleagues are carrying on, I cannot at this time imagine taking on more research responsibilities than the current projects that I have.
Going part-time would allow me the time that I need to get research objectives accomplished, which is one of the three pillars of academia (teaching, research, and clinical work). I always wanted to be a triple threat – being good at all three. Yet, with my work life balance off, I feel like I can only keep up with one or two right now.
Given that I used to have a strong desire to do research, I bet that this would come right back if I had the time off to promote balance in both my work and home life.
4. A Better Blogger
This blog has been really successful this year. I hoped to get to 10,000 monthly page views by the end of my first year. For the past two months, it’s been well over that.
As I continue to write, and the message starts to resonate – I can tell that this thing isn’t too far from taking off. What’s holding it back is the lack of time I have to put into getting the message in front of people.
Getting traffic doesn’t happen by accident. Any blogger knows that they have to get themselves out there. But this takes time to write guest posts, produce social media content, and recruit new readers.
I’d have more time to do all of this if I was part-time.
5. I’d be happier
In the end, this is the biggest reason.
I think cutting back to part-time could make me happier. It could also produce some increased career longevity, too. That’s the beauty of Partial FIRE.
This would allow me hopefully focus on the parts of my job that I love and to have better balance at home. Many people have talked about how finding the right number of shifts (or workload) was the key ingredient to rediscovering their love for medicine. This includes the likes of Passive Income MD, Crispy Doc, and Physician on FIRE.
This is one of the many ways that financial independence – or, at the least, a clear path to getting there – can serve as an individual solution to burnout. This proves particularly important if the medical system refuses to change.
I still love practicing medicine. I find it fulfilling and satisfying. None of that has changed.
That said, the balance I used to have between work and life has come into question at times. While I continue to thinking through this dilemma and the direction of my career, this will be a question I continue ponder.
All I know is that, for now, part-time work is definitely on the table. We will see what happens. Something has got to give.
Have you ever considered going part-time? For those that have, did you find it helpful? Leave a comment below.