A perfect storm is brewing for part-time physician work in rheumatology. As an increasing number of rheumatologists approach retirement age, a growing number of new physicians just out of medical school are seeking a more balanced lifestyle. With these circumstances, the question of part-time work in rheumatology is bound to come up.
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Explore This IssueFebruary 2012
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A 2010 survey from the healthcare recruitment firm Cejka Search, based in St. Louis, and the American Medical Group Association found that the ranks of part-time physicians are on the rise, with 13% of male physicians saying that they were practicing part time and 36% of female physicians reporting part-time schedules, says Mary Barber, vice president at Cejka Search. In 2005, those numbers were 7% and 29%, respectively.
A benchmarking survey from the ACR in 2009 found that 64% of academic practices have least one part-time rheumatologist. In fact, practices employed an average of 10 rheumatologists, with nearly two of those working part time.
“The current generation is not like their workaholic parents,” says practice management consultant John Pinto, president of Pinto & Associates in San Diego. “You have half of the medical school graduates that are female, and they are exiting school at a time that they are thinking about family. Then you have males who are somewhat less gonzo about work than in the past,” he says.
It helps that rheumatology is amenable to flexible work arrangements, compared with other specialties. That said, the benefits of rheumatology as a specialty often depend on how each practice determines scheduling. What is motivating rheumatologists to consider part-time work or reduced hours, and how exactly do alternate work arrangements affect a practice?
Why Part Time?
Starting a family is often a big reason rheumatologists seek a part-time work arrangement. “Other than my first two years after my fellowship, I’ve always wanted to work part time,” says Dawn Santora, MD, clinical assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Physicians, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Arthritis and Autoimmunity Center in Greensburg, Pa. Dr. Santora, who is married to a fellow physician, says someone had to be home to raise their three children. “I enjoy my job, but I enjoy other things, too. I’m also busy with my kids and volunteer work,” says Dr. Santora, who is the sole physician at a satellite office.
“Most of the part-time rheumatologists I know made that practice choice to balance work and family, specifically to be home with children,” says Julie Levengood, MD, a rheumatologist at Reliant Medical Group in Worcester, Mass. Dr. Levengood has worked part time and has written about work scheduling choices on her blog, The Doctors’ Rheum (http://thedoctorsrheum.wordpress.com).
Just like in the corporate world, if you’re not 110% committed, you could be marginalized. A doctor who is not in the office every day is in an outer orbit, and it takes effort to stay in the loop.—John Pinto
Rebecca M. Shepherd, MD, FACP, a rheumatologist with Arthritis and Rheumatology Specialists, Lancaster General Health, Lancaster, Pa., was hired at a time when the practice only wanted part-time help. “I could have gone full time, but by then I had two small children. I wanted flexibility,” she says. Dr. Shepherd worked part time for five years and is currently in a temporary position as vice president of physician services, where she oversees 225 doctors at 25 practices. About a third of the 225 physicians work part time.