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Surgeon with summers off or part-time?

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  • Surgeon with summers off or part-time?

    Thinking out loud here. My situation is I'm a 37 yo surgical sub specialist. 2.5 years into practice. Job is stable and besides COVID I feel like my practice is close to "established". Loans paid off except mortgage which is about ~1x salary, and have generous emergency fund. I have always had the "work to live" motivation and strive for a healthy work life balance. We paid off my student loans quickly and live off much less than I make.

    I'm toying around with the idea of going part time in the summer or something of the sort. I have young kids and the idea of enjoying the warmer weather with them and my wife sounds amazing.

    I'm a hospital employed orthopod. Would need to figure out what contract adjustments would need to be made. Not sure if going to less FTE, ask for more vaca, different types of contract would work better? Obviously I would plan on making less money. Anyone from a similar type of practice have experience with this? I could envision doing one office day / one OR day a week and spend the rest of the week off and out of town. Would either need to stack my call other times of the year or come back to town for call days too.

  • #2
    The problem with wanting time off is call responsibility or referral patterns.

    No hospital job will give you months off call in a row. It’ll lead to not enough coverage when you’re not there forcing others to take up the slack.

    If you can build a purely elective practice with referrals, then will pcps still refer to you when you’re not available 3 months out of the year?

    If you really want to dictate your schedule to have that much time off then locums would probably be the way to go. If you just want to spend summer months and enjoying time with your family, why don’t you just look for a job where you want to live/vacation?

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    • #3
      Yeh our trauma call is only 2-3 days a month, so I could either come back for that, push it to the beginning or end of summer. My kinda job isn't that easily found elsewhere haha. And I could take my office call when I'm in office/OR days, so that should cover my practice responsibilities. Certainly things may pop up from time to time that I may have to take care of outside my particular days.

      Would make for a very busy two days a week, which I'm ok with. Maybe two office days and one two-room OR day makes more sense....

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      • #4
        You would fist need buy in from the other docs who would cover for you. Summer is a common time to take off. I would not be happy if one of my partners proposed this unless there was something to help me out. Like offering to work every Xmas or something similar. But that defeats your purpose of wanting time off for the kids.

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        • #5
          Yeh totally agree. I'd be happy to work the summer holiday weekends knowing I have the rest of the time off. I dont think it would be a big burden on the partners if I'm still able to take care of my office call (which is not a big deal) when I'm back. Maybe I'm over thinking it.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by bikesandbeer View Post
            Yeh totally agree. I'd be happy to work the summer holiday weekends knowing I have the rest of the time off. I dont think it would be a big burden on the partners if I'm still able to take care of my office call (which is not a big deal) when I'm back. Maybe I'm over thinking it.
            Bring it up to them and you’ll get your answer real fast with their faces.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by bikesandbeer View Post
              Yeh totally agree. I'd be happy to work the summer holiday weekends knowing I have the rest of the time off. I dont think it would be a big burden on the partners if I'm still able to take care of my office call (which is not a big deal) when I'm back. Maybe I'm over thinking it.
              Depends on your partners. If the ones you work with all fight over the same holidays/school breaks like mine it's a steel cage royal rumble cockfight where only a select few emerge victorious.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by zlandar View Post

                Depends on your partners. If the ones you work with all fight over the same holidays/school breaks like mine it's a steel cage royal rumble cockfight where only a select few emerge victorious.
                back when I took call I volunteered to work every thanksgiving, christmas, hanukkah, easter (bc I have no kids) but asked for NYE/day and july 4th as my off holidays- which senior partners grumbled about.

                Are there other orthos you work with who want more money and would be willing to cover your calls for cash? That can solve some (not all) of your call issues. Just offer a premium pay rate.

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                • #9
                  I wanted to do something similar, and I was part time and our department used to allow this. But a few years ago they stopped and said even if you were part time you had to work the same number of hours every week. Kind of a bummer. I switched jobs about 2 years ago and now I'm full time. This summer I'm wfh in Vermont for 5 weeks and I'll take 2 of those weeks off. Still not my ideal, but getting closer. My job is very chill and I've been able to save up like 9 weeks of vacation time over the last 2 years ( I get 5 weeks off each year). So starting next year I think I'm just going to take a month off every summer. But I'm outpatient, so a lot different than surgery. I hope you can figure it out! Let us know what your group says, I'm very curious.

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                  • #10
                    A job share might be an option...but very difficult to find a compatible job-share partner.

                    Where I am ortho trauma and other acute ortho injuries go way up in the summer...but people tend to put truly elective Ortho surgeries off until the colder months as they don’t want to be recovering/rehabbing during the summer.

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                    • #11
                      I was a hospital employed Ortho for several years each at two different places. I don't think you will get exactly what you want. The best I can see it is you will not be offered part-time, so just schedule the minimum number of hours you can where the administration will not hassle or question you (you can PM me on ways to do this). Also, the max I ever took off at one time was 2 weeks, which is probably what would be acceptable under your circumstances, again without receiving much criticism. Depending on how much PTO you have, you might be able to stretch that to 3 weeks.

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                      • #12
                        I'll be happy if surgeon spouse gets two weeks off (in a row) this summer.... working on switches to see if it's possible.... and with all the virtual meetings now I bet vacation will have some of those thrown in.

                        I hope it works out for you though! Just don't tell me because I will be jealous.

                        Real conversation:

                        Me: When we reach FI, will you be able to cut back on hours... maybe go part-time.... ?
                        Surgeon: No.
                        Me: WCI says it's possible? Why not?
                        Surgeon: You should have married an ED doc. (lol)

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                        • #13
                          I'm private practice ortho (hand) and agree with the above statements about call responsibilities and referral patterns. You don't want to be known as the guy who is "never around." I'm in a similar stage of life/practice as you and also enjoy spending time with my kids and traveling. My compromise has been to make Thursday mornings my OR time, and I leave Thursday afternoons open for "extra curricular" activities. That, alone, really helps my mental health. But then if I want to take a long weekend, I will take off Friday (office day), which means I'm really off on Thursday when my cases are done. Sometimes, that can be at 9 or 10am (couple of quick cases). That basically gives me a 4-day weekend and perfect for trips with the family. My PA astutely pointed out the other day that I'm taking nearly every other Friday off through Spring and Summer. So while I'm never actually "gone" for weeks at a time, I certainly FEEL like I'm traveling a lot and hardly working. As WCI puts it, I'm merely "cutting my hours down to full time."

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                          • #14
                            Ortho trauma here. My two partners and I split the month of call however we want. So usually 10-11 days in whatever block configuration I choose (I make the schedule). Level 2 call. Independent contractor. Essentially no elective practice. Salaried. One day of clinic every three weeks.

                            I am making hay while the sun is shining. Love the time at home with my spouse, 19 month old daughter. Second daughter due in June. Plenty of time to travel.... but COVID and toddlers have delayed that.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by mamaham View Post
                              I'll be happy if surgeon spouse gets two weeks off (in a row) this summer.... working on switches to see if it's possible.... and with all the virtual meetings now I bet vacation will have some of those thrown in.

                              I hope it works out for you though! Just don't tell me because I will be jealous.

                              Real conversation:

                              Me: When we reach FI, will you be able to cut back on hours... maybe go part-time.... ?
                              Surgeon: No.
                              Me: WCI says it's possible? Why not?
                              Surgeon: You should have married an ED doc. (lol)
                              It’s possible but probably not the practice a surgeon can easily get. Part time for a surgeon essentially is locums.

                              I’ve heard of job share, or 2 surgeons splitting the responsibility of 1, but even more rare in practice.

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