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Live From AMGA: Part-Time Problems

Elyas Bakhtiari, for HealthLeaders Media, March 10, 2008
The number of physicians practicing part-time is on the rise, which isn't good news for facilities that are short-staffed or struggling to recruit.

Between 2005 and 2007, the percentage of physicians practicing part-time increased from 13 percent to 19 percent, according to the Cejka Search and AMGA 2007 Physician Retention Survey. Carol Westfall, president of Cejka Search, and Joseph Scopelliti, MD, president of Guthrie Clinic in Sayre, PA, unveiled the results of the latest survey, now in its third year, at the AMGA annual conference in Orlando.

The physicians opting for part-time work tend to be early-career females or pre-retirement males, but they have different reasons for doing so. Thirty-one percent of male physicians cite "unrelated professional or personal pursuits" and 29 percent cite "preparing for retirement" as their reasons for going part-time. However, the majority of female physicians (69 percent) work part-time because of family responsibilities, including pregnancy. Past surveys suggest that part-time male physicians--but full-time female physicians--have the highest turnover rates.

Turnover concerns aside, groups should be aware of the impact part-timers will have on their ability to provide quality patient care, the presenters said. Take call coverage, which is already a contentious issue between physicians and hospitals. Roughly half (47 percent) of survey respondents said they reduce call proportionately based on full-time equivalent status for part-time physicians.

To offset the lower call availability, many groups are turning to hospitalists; 86 percent hired hospitalists or engaged a hospitalist organization in the past year to handle call and other hospital responsibilities. This is often viewed as an effective retention strategy, as it reduces the call burden on other physicians in the group.

The part-time trend doesn't show any signs of reversing or slowing in the near future. Pre-retirement male physicians and early-career female physicians, the two groups with the highest turnover rates and the most likely to practice part-time, are also fastest growing segments of the physician workforce.


Elyas Bakhtiari is a managing editor with HealthLeaders Media. He can be reached at ebakhtiari@healthleadersmedia.com.