May 20, 2016
1 min read

Flexible work hours, clear boundaries key to work-life balance for rural women physicians

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Flexible or reduced work hours, supportive personal and professional relationships, and clear boundaries are instrumental in maintaining a successful work–life balance among rural women family physicians, according to data published in the Annals of Family Medicine.

“A lack of women rural physicians especially limits access to care for women patients, who often prefer women clinicians and appear to complete more screening tests when seen by women,” Julie Phillips, MD, MPH, of the Michigan State College of Human Medicine, in Grand Rapids, and colleagues wrote. “Rural female physicians are also more likely to attend births than male peers, an important practice characteristic as many rural areas have a shortage of obstetrics professionals. Promoting the success of women family physicians in rural communities is therefore important for community health.”

To better understand the strategies women in family medicine use to balance professional and personal demands in rural communities, the researchers interviewed 25 such clinicians using a semistructured format. Interviews were recorded, professionally transcribed and analyzed using an immersion and crystallization approach, followed by detailed coding of emergent themes.

Questions covered subjects including work hours and patterns, career planning and development, spouse relationship and roles, and work–life balance.

According to the researchers, the participants reported maintaining reduced or flexible work hours to achieve a successful work–life balance. In addition, many reported having supportive relationships with spouses, partners, parents and other members of the community, which allowed them to be readily available to patients. Lastly, the participants reportedly maintained clearly defined boundaries between their professional and personal lives, allowing them adequate time for recreation, rest or parenting.

“The results suggest that women physicians considering rural practice may be more satisfied and successful if they seek flexible employers and choose communities where support is available, or if they look for ways to build support networks as they are choosing practice settings,” Phillips and colleagues wrote. “They may also benefit from developing strategies to negotiate boundaries with patients and developing skills to maintain their wellness.” – by Jason Laday

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.