How medicine be­came a fam­ily-friendly job

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Sunday Special -

Britni He­bert was chief res­i­dent, on track for a ca­reer in the highly de­mand­ing field of on­col­ogy, when she found out she was hav­ing twins. She couldn’t imag­ine 80-hour work­weeks with two new­borns at home, while her hus­band was do­ing an equally in­ten­sive ra­di­ol­ogy fel­low­ship. But she didn’t leave the pro­fes

sion. In­stead, Dr. He­bert, 37, de­cided to prac­tice in­ter­nal medicine and geri­atrics, with more con­trol over her hours. She has been able to change her sched­ule three times as her fam­ily’s needs have changed, and now works about 85% of full-time hours.

Medicine has become some­thing of a stealth fam­ily-friendly pro­fes­sion, at a time when other pro­fes­sions are growing more greedy about em­ploy­ees’ time. Jobs in­creas­ingly re­quire long, in­flex­i­ble hours, and pay dis­pro­por­tion­ately more to peo­ple who work them. But if one par­ent is on call at work, some­one else has to be on call at home. For most cou­ples, that’s the woman — which is why ed­u­cated women are be­ing pushed out of work or into lower-pay­ing jobs.

But medicine has changed in ways that of­fer doc­tors and other health care work­ers the op­tion of more con­trol over their hours, depend­ing on the spe­cialty and job they choose, while still prac­tic­ing at the top of their train­ing and be­ing paid pro­por­tion­ately.

Flex­i­ble, pre­dictable hours are the key — across oc­cu­pa­tions — to shrink­ing gen­der gaps, ac­cord­ing to the body of re­search by Clau­dia Goldin, an econ­o­mist at Har­vard. As Amer­i­can em­ploy­ers strug­gle to adapt to the re­al­i­ties of mod­ern fam­ily life and as younger gen­er­a­tions of work­ers de­mand more bal­ance, medicine of­fers a road map.

Dr. He­bert es­ti­mates that for­go­ing on­col­ogy halved her life­long earn­ings. But she’s grate­ful that she had other op­tions for prac­tic­ing medicine — and can still meet her chil­dren at the school bus most af­ter­noons.

“I don’t want to pre­tend there aren’t sac­ri­fices that come with the path that I’ve cho­sen,” she said, “but I just don’t think I could be em­ployed at this time if not for be­ing able to decide my sched­ule.” A gen­er­a­tion ago, the typ­i­cal doc­tor owned a pri­vate prac­tice, and saw pa­tients when­ever they got sick. To­day, doc­tors are much like­lier to work for large group prac­tices or hos­pi­tals and be on call at pre­dictable times. 70% of doc­tors un­der 40 are now em­ploy­ees, not own­ers, ac­cord­ing to Amer­i­can Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion data.

Large group prac­tices give doc­tors more work-life bal­ance, be­cause there are more peo­ple who can serve as sub­sti­tutes and di­vide night and week­end work.

“The old mar­ket ex­pec­ta­tion that your doc­tor will be avail­able at all hours and is en­tirely flex­i­ble was be­gin­ning to fall apart as the work force be­came more di­verse,” said Robert Wachter, chair of the de­part­ment of medicine at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, San Fran­cisco. “New gen­er­a­tions look at the work-life bal­ance of older gen­er­a­tions of physi­cians, and I think many of them say, ‘I don’t want that.’”

WORK-LIFE BAL­ANCE: Medicine has become a fam­i­lyfriendly pro­fes­sion that al­lows par­ents to plan their sched­ules ac­cord­ing to their needs

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.