A job-share registry helps doctors find flexible work

4 minute read

The growing need for part-time work has led to the development of a platform designed to help doctors find job-share partners more easily.

Clinicians, particularly trainees, are increasingly interested in flexible work arrangements, but there is a mismatch in the provision of flexible positions; more than 30% of surgical trainees surveyed in Australia, for example, expressed interest in flexible training, but less than 1% are in such positions.  

Crucially and concerningly, of those who were able to secure flexible work arrangements, 50% would have either taken a break in training or withdrawn from training altogether if the option had not been available. If job demands cannot accommodate doctors’ personal needs, they may be forced to leave the workforce

There are many reasons people may opt for flexible work arrangements: raising a child, carer responsibilities, work-life balance or commitment to other hobbies such as sport. Access to flexibility is not a gender-specific issues; doctors of all genders have expressed a desire for flexible work arrangements. However, the provision of options is important for an equitable workforce, given female trainees are far more likely to avail themselves of flexible arrangements. Medical specialties that do not provide flexible working arrangements will likely experience reduced gender diversity in trainees, with lower participation rates of women training and working. 

What are the benefits of less-than-full-time work? Clinicians experience improved wellbeing and clinical performance, with reduced levels of burnout and fatigue, increased enthusiasm for work and improved work-life balance. Services experience benefits, too: increased staff retention and loyalty, an increased pool of applicants for positions, lower recruitment costs and less use of sick leave. 

Barriers to part-time training, besides the lack of available options, include the erroneous view that doctors seeking flexible work are less serious about their careers and patients, and the perception that patient care and training quality will be compromised. In a survey of UK orthopaedic trainees, over half experienced undermining behaviour as a result of working less than full-time.  

Contrary to oft-expressed concerns, there has been no evidence of compromised continuity of care or training quality. In fact, an American study of internal medicine trainees found that part-timers scored higher in clinical and humanistic skills. 

The National Medical Workforce Strategy 2021-2031 specifically cites “building a responsive and flexible workforce” as a priority, with an action item to “increase flexible working arrangements to reflect the changing needs of the medical workforce”, and supporting the provision of job-sharing. One of the major barriers cited for flexible work arrangements is difficulty finding a job-share partner. 

To alleviate the barrier of finding job-share partners, the Medical Women’s Society of NSW was inspired by the Victorian Medical Women’s Society to create a NSW Doctors’ Job Share Registry, available to doctors of all genders and stages of seniority in NSW, consistent with the AMA’s National Code of Practice for Flexible Work & Training Practices.  

The NSW registry launched on 14 March, in preparation for 2023 recruitment. This platform enables doctors to submit their details and preferences through a Google Form, which then populates a spreadsheet onto www.nswdoctorjobshare.com. Doctors are able to identify potential job share partners via the listings on the spreadsheet, and contact them via the nominated email/mobile.  

There’s no guarantee the partnership will work, but it allows people to find potential job share partners outside of their immediate networks, and filter by their stated preferences. We have eight listings so far, months out from the official recruitment campaign. We’re not aware of any matches yet, but we’ve received a lot of positive feedback from doctors, many of whom say they wish this platform was available when they were looking at part-time options! This website provides a space for potential job-share partners to connect, opening up new possibilities for flexible work arrangements. 

At MWS NSW, we’re proud to be a part of the solution. The Job Share Registry is an innovative and simple interim solution, representing a beacon of hope for doctors seeking flexible working arrangements in NSW. By simplifying the process of finding job-share partners, we hope to allow clinicians to focus their energy on things that truly matter: achieving a healthy work-life balance, and providing quality patient care.  

This initiative not only demonstrates the power of collaboration and innovation, but also paves the way for a more flexible and compassionate future in the medical field, where the wellbeing needs of healthcare professionals are recognised and prioritised. 

Dr Ashna Basu is a Sydney psychiatry registrar, a conjoint associate lecturer at UNSW, chair of Young MWIA (Medical Women’s International Association), and president of the Medical Women’s Society NSW. 

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