Everyone has a concept of what work-life balance is to them. And everyone’s concept is a little different. That includes physicians looking for their next practice and hiring organizations looking to fill their openings.
Have you considered whether your definition of work-life balance is the same as the organization you’re considering? Here are five questions to ask to help determine if they’re a good fit for you and your family:
1. How would you describe the work environment? Are the physicians primarily dedicated to the practice of medicine only, or are they devoted to the practice of medicine and a healthy balance of work and self-care?
Organizations can say they expect you to take time off to take care for yourself and offer you all the required resources. But do they mean this? Is it encouraged when you need to leave to pick up your child or go to a child’s sporting event, or does tending to these personal things lead to issues?
According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, systemic change is needed to help physicians achieve an appropriate integration of work life and home responsibilities.
Suppose it is safe to conclude that the culture of being a physician is changing. Is the organization willing to change with it?
2. What do they offer you to make sure you have the work-life balance you need? Or are these just words that are trending to them?
Things that should be in consideration are flexible time off and wellness offerings. Some examples could be gym memberships, in-hospital chair massages, and family mealtime at the hospital. Some ideas once considered taboo are the “in” thing to do now. On the other hand, options that could be inappropriate as facilities handle an influx of COVID cases may need to be placed on hold.
Note: Hospitalists, urgent care and anyone who has shift work may have a different set of circumstances and may not have flex time (as they will need to cover their shift). However, if you are a physician and work a shift schedule, make sure you are paid a market wage for extra shifts in the event of a long absence, such as an unfilled vacancy. It will be up to you to help a colleague, (for example, in the event of an unexpected illness) and you’d would probably want the same respect in reverse.
3. Why does the organization have this job opening? How long has the job been open?
If the position has been available for longer than two years, this may signify the offered salary or call coverage is less than desirable. It does not mean the position is not suitable for you. It could be due to the COVID crisis, but make sure you think about these things as you consider opportunities.
Ask the recruiter, administrator, CEO and others, “Why do you think the vacancy has been open for two years?” Maybe they have recently changed the position to be a better situation for the physician, or you might find out right then and there before an onsite interview that a physician in the community is refusing another specialist. Again, that doesn’t mean it isn’t the perfect fit, but you will at least know the situation.
4. How many times has the job been open in the past five years?
This is my favorite question. If this opening has had a lot of turnover, does it make you want to run to another position or would you consider it your career challenge? Find out why the turnover has happened and show how you can fix what you can see are the widespread problems with the position, and determine if the leadership is willing to change and work with you. Make a difference and map out a change for the organization.
5. In general, what will my schedule look like? What is an average caseload? What time do most physicians arrive, leave? What is the call schedule?
I recommend asking this question with a disclaimer: State that you are not suggesting this be placed in a contract, but that you would like to know the culture of the group, organization and hospital.
If most physicians arrive at 10 a.m., and all of the patients complain because no one is ever on time for their 9 a.m. appointments, is this what you are looking for? Or, on the opposite extreme, do they arrive at 6 a.m. each day to do rounds, and then clinic patients are seen, only to do rounds again, most coming home around 10 or 11 p.m.?
What matters is that you know what you are getting into and that by asking polite, direct questions, you can find out the organization’s culture, goals and focus before you sign on the dotted line.