Top five tips for successful part-time working

Doctors are becoming increasingly interested in the possibility of working part-time or flexibly as they look to achieving a better work-life balance. Employers may even be more supportive at present as they look to make cost savings. As someone who has worked part -time for a significant chunk of my career, I want to share some of the pros and cons.

From the outset it is important to dispel a few myths about part-time working. You don’t need to be female and you don’t need to have children to work part-time. If you can afford the drop in income and you have other things you want to do with your life, why not give it some thought?

Working part-time presents its own challenges. Often the times that your team wants you to be there are the busiest times. It is likely that you will try to be more efficient and to “fit more in” to the time you spend at work. You may well feel that you have to work more hours than your job plan allows. It is important that you get the balance right, so that you can continue to work in a professional manner whilst having some time away from work.

The key to successful part-time working is innovative job planning. I have an associate specialist job in which I am encouraged to cover the whole variety of my specialty of renal medicine. Clinically I am challenged daily by clinics, ward rounds, referrals from within the hospital and from my colleagues in primary care. In order to do that, I have had to become better at handover. There are some tests or results that will come back when I am not at work and I need to make sure that someone else knows to look out for them. I still feel uncomfortable doing that as within myself it feels like I am not completing the job but I need to ensure that care of the patient is continuous.

Working part-time should not prevent you advancing in your career. I have been encouraged to take leadership roles both regionally and nationally and this adds a great deal to my job satisfaction. You need to be proactive though – nobody will offer you things on a plate. You will need to give good reasoned argument as to why you should have time in your job plan to fulfil these roles. I would recommend that you strive for variety and challenge in your working life as an SAS doctor because the rewards of job satisfaction are great.

For the first time with the 2008 contract, our need for SPA time has been recognised. We will continue to argue that most SAS doctors have too little time allocated in their job plans for Supporting Professional Activities (SPA) work but it was a start. If your SPA allocation is too small you should address that in your annual appraisal. You need to speak up though. A well trained appraiser should be able to help you work out what to do about this common problem.

My tips for success in part time working are:

1. Continue to set yourself new challenges

2. Job-plan carefully

3. Always maintain a high level of professionalism

4. Ensure that you have regular satisfactory appraisal and set out a personal development plan for the coming year so that time can be allocated to your needs for personal and professional development.

5. Enjoy the time you spend out of work doing the other things that life has to offer. You will take that enthusiasm back into your clinical role too.

You can find more information about improving your work life balance on the BMA’s electronic handbook webpage, including case studies from many other SAS doctors who have taken up this option.

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