To understand the characteristics of women physicians who work reduced hours in dual-earner couples and how such work schedules affect the quality of the marital role, parental role, and job role, as well as indicators of psychological distress, burnout, career satisfaction, and life satisfaction. Survey of a random sample of female physicians between 25 and 50 years of age, working within 25 miles of Boston, whose names were obtained from the Registry of Board Certification in Medicine in Massachusetts. Interviewers conducted a 60-minute face-to-face close-ended interview after a 20-minute mailed questionnaire had been completed. Fifty-one full-time physicians and 47 reduced-hours physicians completed the study, for a completion rate of 49.5%. There was no difference in age, number of years as a physician, mean household income, number of children, or presence of an infant in the home between reduced-hours and full-time physicians. Reduced-hours physicians, however, were more likely to be in a generalist specialty (40% vs. 12%, p = 0.001) and to spend a greater portion of their time in patient care (64.5% vs. 50.1%, p = 0.003) and less time in research (4.9% vs. 18.0%, p = 0.002) than full-time physicians. In addition, there was no difference between the two groups in the perception of work interfering with family life (1.8 vs. 1.7, p = 0.17; scale 1-7 with 7 high) or family life interfering with work (1.4 vs. 1.5, p = 0.62). Physicians who worked their preferred number of hours (25% of full-time and 57% of reduced-hours physicians), regardless of full-time (self-reported hours 35-90 hours per week) or reduced-hours (20-60 hours per week) status, reported better job role quality (r = 0.35, p = 0.001), schedule fit (r = 0.41, p < or = 0.001), lower burnout (r = -0.22, p = 0.03), better marital role quality (r = 0.28, p = 0.006), and higher life satisfaction (r = 0.29, p = 0.005). Women physicians who work their preferred number of hours achieve the best balance of work and family outcomes.
Phyllis L. Carr, M.D., Associate Dean of Student Affairs, Boston University School of Medicine, 715 Albany Street, Room L109, Boston, MA 02118